Justice, southern style, is the all-too-elusive goal in veteran columnist Wicker's tale of race, sex, and murder. When Jace Allman checks into his job as Stonewall County's daytime jailer, he finds nighttime jailer Ben Neely's Fairlane missing. That's because Easter Lilly Odum, awaiting trial for stealing a utility truck, has escaped from her cell and taken off with the car, having first stabbed Ben to death with his own Swiss Army knife. The locals laugh at the defense Easter Lilly offers when's she's capturedthat Ben was threatening her at knifepoint with rape. They know that Easter's jailbait past (even her grade-school teacher had to leave town to keep out of prison) makes her the world's least likely rape victim, and that Ben's brother Tyree, the county prosecutor, will call in every favor to pack and convince a receptive jury. What they don't know is that Easter's about to get some unexpected help from a white knight: W. Shepherd Riley, a dormant civil-rights lawyer who's been hibernating in Vermont till he reads about the case, charges back down south, and sweet-talks Meg McKinnon, his former partner and lover, into joining him. From here on in everything gets more complicatedShep and Meg promptly fall back into each other's arms; Shep realizes he'd like to do the same (and much, much more) with the client he's stolen away from a sozzled local defender; and the opposing attorney's prove each the other's equal in shameless courtroom posturing and underhanded legal maneuveringeven though, as in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Wicker's obvious model, there's less doubt about the facts of the case than about what those facts mean. An evocative parade of adulteries, betrayals, luncheonette meals, and slugs of Wild Turkey that doesn't produce many legal thrillsor, ultimately, the kind of moral complexity Wicker (Donovan's Wife, 1992; Tragic Failure: Racial Integration in America, 1996, etc.) would like to claim.