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UNDUE INFLUENCE by Steve Martini


by Steve Martini

Pub Date: July 6th, 1994
ISBN: 0-399-13932-X
Publisher: Putnam

 California attorney Paul Madriani is back. Don't bother waiting till the fall entries are in--Martini (Prime Witness, 1993, etc.) has written the courtroom novel of the year. Before his wife died of cancer, Paul promised that he'd help her kid sister, Laurel, win her custody battle for her two teenagers against her ex-husband, Jack Vega, a slimy political beast remarried to brainless beauty Melanie. But the night after Laurel and Melanie's very public cat-fight in a courthouse corridor, Melanie's shot dead in her shower; an APB goes out for missing Laurel, whose own lawyer drops her case; and Paul realizes he's in for the most devilish case of his career. The evidence against Laurel is strong: She's picked up in a Reno laundromat with Melanie's compact in her purse and Melanie's bathmat in the washer, soaking in a corrosive cleaner that could have removed any traces of gunshot--a cleaner that's raised painful, inconclusive burns on Laurel's hands. And feral prosecutor Morgan Cassidy's chief investigator, Jimmy Lama, clearly has his knife out for Paul. But thanks mainly to one of Melanie's neighbors--Paul's old antagonist, federal prosecutor Dana Colby--Paul knows even more about the case's weakness than Morgan does. He knows that two other neighbors, George and Kathy Merlow, vanished into thin air hours after the murder, and that Kathy Merlow's best friend was killed by a no-nonsense pro moments before she could say where Kathy was. He knows where the Merlows fled to, and how to find them. He knows that despite the evidence that Melanie was pregnant, Jack had a vasectomy years ago. Best of all, he knows that Jack's already on his way to jail as part of a secret, ongoing federal investigation. The resulting thrust-and-parry assures virtually nonstop courtroom pyrotechnics-- even the most innocuous testimony turns into a ballet of blindsiding and body blows--and leaves plenty of room for a dazzling climax. (Literary Guild main selection; authour tour)