DEATH PENALTY by William J. Coughlin


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 Recovering alcoholic Charley Sloan (Shadow of a Doubt, 1991, etc.), lowest rung of the Detroit bar, juggles three juicy cases as he struggles to keep from falling off the wagon. Charley's just lost the first case--his defense of alleged euthanasiast Miles Stewart (``Doctor Death'')--but the presiding judge allowed so much inadmissible evidence that Charley's confident of winning the appeal. In the meantime, however, the charmless doctor keeps making trips out of town, one of which ends with an elderly, ailing corpse and a $200,000 contribution to his research foundation. After Charley ruthlessly presses for an out-of-court settlement to the second case--former prostitute Becky Harris's rape/assault suit against her sometime boyfriend, car salesman Howard Wordley--Becky decides to kiss and make up with Wordley, leaving Charley way out on a limb with the folks he's been intimidating. But it's the third case that's the killer. Arguing the appeal of a product liability suit--a mobile home mysteriously accelerated on its own, leaving driver Will McHugh hopelessly crippled, and seedy, conscientious attorney-of- record Mickey Monk on the verge of bankruptcy--Charley gets a series of deafening hints from sleazy former judge Jeffrey Mallow that the appeal will go in his client's favor if only he's willing to slip a substantial bribe to Judge William Palmer, the revered law-school mentor who had kept Charley from disbarment a few years back. Unwilling to finger Palmer (whose insistent daughter he's just started to date) and unable to back out of the case (Palmer and Mallow have threatened to discredit him if he doesn't come across), Charley's in a three-ring pickle. It's a pleasure watching the well-oiled machinery--politics, threats, and shameless legal maneuvering--that eventually brings Charley to a perfect three-point landing.

Pub Date: Oct. 7th, 1992
ISBN: 0-06-017701-2
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1992


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