TOWN ON TRIAL by William Harrington


Email this review


 The shifting nature of truth and the difference between appearance and reality are the themes of a nicely crafted legal thriller by author/attorney Harrington (Endgame in Berlin, 1991). Alexandria seems like your basic quaint Ohio Valley town peopled with rustics who belong to the Rotary and Kiwanis, shoot deer in the forest, and pray at night to preserve property values from strangers. But then Alexandria gets caught up in the sensational trial of Park Avenue socialite/art dealer Marietta Rheinlander, accused of murdering her congressman lover, Charles Bailey, and two aides at his rural retreat. The 40-year-old Rheinlander, portrayed via Harrington's documentary, pro-and-con style as a second-tier Vanity Fair cheesecake, is the only stereotyped character in a multilayered story narrated by aging trial judge Bill McIntyre, who was born and reared in Alexandria and comes across as a judiciously fair man. He's also the deus ex machina of the plot, guiding readers through points of law and a pantheon of mainly WASP-named players. McIntyre makes it plain at the outset that the case against Rheinlander seems open and shut: Not only was she spotted standing over Bailey's body with a smoking .38-caliber Smith & Wesson, which bears her fingerprints, she was also observed fleeing the death scene in her rented red Oldsmobile. Will this rich, sophisticated New Yorker receive justice in a locale that appears to celebrate the opinions of Dan Quayle? In the rather contrived ending, she does--but not before homegrown county prosecutor Ken Simpson catches Rheinlander in a lie about the number of times she was forced to perform fellatio on the bachelor congressman, whom big-city defense lawyer Lloyd George Kimball suggests was gay and could have been murdered by a homosexual lover wearing gloves. The pacing is like a brisk tennis match as arguments go back and forth in Harrington's gripping take on reasonable doubt.

Pub Date: May 18th, 1994
ISBN: 1-55611-393-5
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Donald Fine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1994


FictionCOLUMBO: THE GLITTER MURDER by William Harrington
by William Harrington
FictionCOLUMBO: THE GAME-SHOW KILLER by William Harrington
by William Harrington
NonfictionMANHATTAN NORTH HOMICIDE by Thomas McKenna
by Thomas McKenna