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A fledgling Boston lawyer quits her white-shoe firm for the real world, which here bears an uncanny resemblance to a network TV pilot.

Sitting on a park bench wondering what she's going to do about the dressing-down she's just gotten from the head of litigation, Mairead O'Clare is befriended by scruffy veteran attorney Sheldon Gold, who offers to let her an office in his place and throw some work her way. And bang! she's out of the gate on her first criminal case, the murder of homeless Zoran Draskovic, the self-styled "Old Man River" who was beaten to death on the bank of the Charles with a shillelagh belonging to Shel's pro bono client, who calls himself Alpha. Pseudonymous Devane, being a bit of a sentimentalist, makes Mairead an orphan raised by nuns and Shel a kindly older feller who does his best to cope with the wife who's been institutionalized after leaving their son in his stroller for just a minute and returning to find him gone; Shel's investigator, ex-cop Pontifico ("the Pope") Murizzi, refuses to work for any clients unless he's convinced they're innocent; and Alpha, when Mairead visits him in the jail she has to ask directions to, is calm, well-spoken, and a-twinkle with Irish charm. Refusing to cop a plea to a crime he didn't commit or, at first, to take part in his own defense, Alpha later tells the good souls turning over likely leads (a wealthy environmentalist whose boat Alpha had thrown stones at, a construction company he may have stolen building materials from, some college kids who once beat him up) that all will be revealed when he takes the stand, and eventually, he does.

The formulaic plot has room for two surprises, one of them a honey; the dewy-eyed characters, all earnest proponents of The Law As It Ought To Be, are less surprising than Perry Mason.

Pub Date: April 2nd, 2001
ISBN: 0-399-14717-9
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2001