The San Diego power shortage must be affecting Paul Madriani: his latest high-profile legal suspenser is his weakest yet.
Who stopped African-American ex-model Kalista Jordan, a Stanford Ph.D. in molecular electronics, from assuming her natural place as empress of the universe, or at least head of Prof. David Crone’s Genetic Research Project by strangling and dismembering her? Veteran prosecutor Evan Tannery is convinced Kalista’s killer was Dr. Crone, rattled by the sexual harassment suit she’d filed against him and jealous of the meteoric ascent that marked her as his inevitable usurper. The prosecution has a device very much like the unusual weapon, complete with nylon bundling cords, in Crone’s possession, along with evidence of mounting hostility between the decedent and the accused; the defense attorneys, Paul (The Attorney, 2000, etc.) and his partner Harry Hinds, have a client who won’t even tell them what his lab was working on because it was so secret, and whose biggest concern throughout the booklength trial is whether the university will take him back. It gets worse, of course, when Kalista’s mother turns up at the last minute to offer evidence of a powerful motive for murder that goes far beyond sexual harassment, and the word goes out that William Epperson, the nanorobotics expert who’s been working with Crone and geneticist Aaron Tash at the lab, is prepared to back her up. But in the latest of many anticlimaxes—experts whose testimony doesn’t matter, forensic debates that go nowhere, charges of politically explosive scientific research that never get off the ground—the case against Crone suddenly collapses, though Martini has been provident enough to save Paul his customary final surprise.
The outline for a much better novel is here: glamorous victim, well-connected defendant, bulldog prosecutor, resourceful defender, weighty issues. What a shame that everything that would make it memorable has been left blank, right down to the jury.