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THE ATTORNEY by Steve Martini

THE ATTORNEY

By Steve Martini

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 2000
ISBN: 0-399-14536-2
Publisher: Putnam

The generic title is a tip-off that the latest case for San Diego lawyer Paul Madriani—an ugly child-custody battle that explodes in murder—is less than his finest hour. It all starts promisingly enough with the return of a former client, Jonah Hale, now the winner of an $87 million lottery prize that’s brought him nothing but grief. In the latest chapter of his troubles, Jonah’s ex-con daughter, Jessica—after announcing that if he doesn—t come across with a lottery-sized payout to her, she—ll take back the granddaughter he and his wife Mary were awarded custody of—has snatched little Amanda, presumably with the help of Zolanda Suade, the man-hating one-person battalion of the Women’s Defense Forum, and spirited her off to Mexico. Paul talks himself into Zolanda’s office, but the only news he gets from her is that Jessica’s filing a lawsuit alleging that her father raped her as a child and has more recently been molesting Amanda. Just when the stage seems set for a knockdown bout between Paul and the Woman of Steel, Zolanda gets herself shot, with every indication that Jonah pulled the trigger, and the case settles into a more familiar, even a soothing, groove. Martini tries his best for fireworks—Paul goes after the very first witness, the inoffensive medical examiner, like a hungry piranha—but none of his surviving enemies, from prosecuting attorney Ruben Ryan to Mexican druglord Esteban Ontaveroz, Jessica’s fearsome ex- lover and the absent suspect Paul would most like to put on the spot for killing Jessica’s closest ally, packs anything like the firepower of the late Zolanda. Not even the moment when Paul’s current inamorata, the Child Protective Services director Susan McKay, buries his client with her reluctantly damning testimony lives up to the juicy promise of those early pages. Don—t worry about the usually reliable Martini, though (The Judge, 1996, etc.). As his long-suffering client attests, even lottery winners have their off days. (Literary Guild alternate selection; Mystery Guild main selection)