Nobody takes more can’t-win cases than windmill-tilter Ben Kincaid. So why won’t he touch this one?
All Ben’s friends are mystified. Not only is the case impossible, but there’s no money in it—attributes that in the past have proved catnip to the quixotic Tulsa lawyer (Criminal Intent, 2002, etc.). The defendant is a 17-year-old horror only a mother could love. John Christensen is the son of engaging widow Ellen Christensen, once the girlfriend of . . . but that would be telling. Unlovely John stands accused of beating to death decent, likeable Tony Barovick for the crime of being gay. Insisting that he’s innocent of homicide, Johnny cops to the beating (“Why does everyone care so much about a goddamned fag?”), acknowledges that he stabbed the victim 12 times and broke both his knees, but swears Tony was still alive when he left him bloody and beaten. Reluctantly, Christina McCall, Ben’s partner, agrees to handle the defense alone. She’s smart, inexperienced, and painfully aware of the empty adjoining chair. To gain Ben’s help, however, she must first solve the mystery of his uncharacteristic behavior. Once she does, Ben joins the defense. They’re splendid together, of course, but the prosecution’s airtight case will take a miracle to defeat. So, bring on that staple of Bernhardt plotting, the deus ex machina.
Lively courtroom scenes, as usual, but the rest is midgrade pulp.