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 A determined Maryland police detective breaks ranks with her colleagues to defend a man accused of killing his wife--in this ambitious but deeply flawed courtroom drama. Well-heeled real-estate developer Cooper Avery, insists Sgt. Christine Boland, is ``almost too easy'' for the role of accused: the break-in and burglary of his Chesapeake Bay home have obviously been faked; his New York alibi hinges on the testimony of Sydney Lambert, the mistress whose status--general counsel to the corporate giant bidding to take over his and his father-in-law's company--clinches his motive; and his own son has been reduced to catatonic terror by the sight of his returning father. The mystery here, and the ensuing legal back-and-forth, are worthy of Pease's bright debut, Playing the Dozens (1990). Meanwhile, though, a portentous prologue and a series of elliptical flashbacks have already hinted, as Christine will soon decide, that the killing is an act of revenge for the arrest and death of a man Cooper's father, a retired FBI agent-turned-congressman, framed for espionage back in 1952; and this involved, uninvolving plot requires an intimacy and a psychological delicacy beyond Pease's range. As Christine delves deeper into the fate of Martin Lessing, who died in prison 40 years ago, her cop buddies, including a former lover, protest that this stuff seems to be taking her further and further from the case, and they're right; nor is the deepening sense of unreality dispelled by the final, preposterous revelation. Despite scraps of real nourishment for courtroom buffs, Pease overreaches himself in his attempt to pull off the Big Book. The verdict: Scott Turow has a lot to answer for. (First printing of 35,000)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-670-83519-6
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1993