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 Lewis's first novel is a legal thriller in which most of the conflict is between a Florida trial lawyer and his own worst instincts. When the public defender's office refuses the case of Bobby Jackson because it represents a potential witness against him, the case falls into Ted Stevens's lap. He'll be getting paid a reduced rate, but he agrees to represent Jackson anyway--even though he not only represented the victim, reporter Patty Stiles, in her divorce action last year, but was also her lover (as was Bobby Jackson). Why doesn't Stevens--reasonably well-fixed and well-known, secure in his partnership, but immersed in the pain of his own divorce, which he suspects was provoked by jealous Patty--duck the assignment? The man seems to have zero survival instinct, as he demonstrates by a plunge into reckless drinking (endless hangovers, a DUI case that drags on and on, a scary blackout on the night of the murder) that throws the murder case he's defending into the shade. Oh, there's still the outrage when the prosecution loses some key evidence, the search for loopholes in the witnesses' stories, and the endless quest to find another suspect: Patty's shadowy ex, the drug dealers she may have been writing about for the Tallahassee Times-Union, their nameless higher-ups. And there's the obligatory spate of threatening anonymous phone calls. But the real story here isn't whether Stevens will do the right thing for a client who seems considerably more powerful than his attorney is, but whether he'll even be free to show up in court instead of locked up on the DUI charge. But if the hero's problems are so much more pressing than the criminal defense (readers looking for courtroom razzle-dazzle will walk away disappointed), Lewis does catch, better than most entries in this overcrowded genre, the way lawyers actually talk and act--especially when they've had too much to drink.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 1-56164-132-4
Page count: 328pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1997


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