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HOW COULD YOU? by Wesley Harden III


by Wesley Harden III

Pub Date: Dec. 23rd, 2019
Publisher: Self

A New York City teenager goes on trial for the savage murder of a homeless veteran in Harden’s (When We Were Young, 2019, etc.) legal drama.

In 2016, police discover the body of Afghan War veteran and vagrant Wilson Prettyman, and a wallet found at the scene leads them to teenage Howard Zepps, who alleges that 17-year-old Danny Schindler committed the strangulation murder. (There are also indications that the killer further brutalized Prettyman’s body after his death.) Danny’s mother, Miriam, immediately believes her son to be guilty, and reacts to the murder charge by repeatedly screaming “How could you?” Cops find the murder weapon—an extension cord—at the Schindlers’ residence, and Danny ultimately goes to trial. Danny’s gynecologist father¸ Murray, contacts his attorney, Jack DeSoto, who agrees to help, although he’s never tried a murder case before. DeSoto is up against district attorney Wilbur Duquesne, who has a solid case, including DNA evidence and Howard’s eyewitness testimony. But the defense lawyer has a few areas of attack, starting with problems with a search warrant. It all leads to an unpredictable courtroom battle, and readers won’t easily guess the verdict. Many of the book’s characters come off as cold and unsympathetic; Danny, for example, doesn’t seem to take the trial seriously, and Miriam is less upset about her son’s possible immorality than she is about how the arrest will adversely affect her family members’ lives. There is, however, a persistent sense of mystery; readers don’t know if Danny is a killer, if Howard is lying, or even if DeSoto wants to win. Harden effectively lays out the meticulous judicial process of a murder case, and how it involves continually examining and re-examining details. There’s also copious dialogue, including rapid-fire exchanges and objections in court; however, Harden’s portrayal of Howard’s time on the stand falls flat, as the teen’s deposition and later testimony are almost identical.

A generally engrossing courtroom drama, despite its unlikable characters.