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Shadow of Power: A Paul Madriani Novel (Paul Madriani Novels) Mass Market Paperback – March 31, 2009

121 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bestseller Martini's entertaining ninth Paul Madriani legal thriller (after 2005's Double Tap) offers an improbable if intriguing premise. San Diego, Calif., attorney Madriani and Harry Hinds, his longtime partner, agree to represent Carl Arnsberg, a racist facing execution for the bludgeoning-by-hammer murder of author Terry Scarborough, whose nonfiction bestseller, Perpetual Slaves, has actually led to riots in the streets. Scarborough focused the U.S. public on the retention in the Constitution of offensive language defining African-Americans as three-fifths human, despite subsequent amendments overriding those statements. He intended to follow Perpetual Slaves with a sequel that would reveal the existence of a secret letter written by Thomas Jefferson whose contents Scarborough believed would prove even more incendiary. Madriani and his team race frantically to trace a copy of that letter, which disappeared from the victim's briefcase at about the time of his murder. Compelling courtroom scenes, which display a sophisticated knowledge of legal trench warfare, compensate for some less-than-credible plot twists. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Defense attorney Paul Madriani and his partner, Harry Hinds, return (after Double Tap, 2005) in this somewhat implausible but gripping legal thriller. A writer with his eye on the best-seller list, Terry Scarborough writes a book about how the U.S. Constitution still contains the language of slavery in its text. As the national debate over the idea of a racist Constitution escalates, Scarborough is killed before he’s able to drop another bomb in his next book: a letter allegedly written by Thomas Jefferson that will further deepen the racial divide. Enter Madriani and Hinds, hired to defend the accused murderer, a white supremacist who might just have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. The defense team realizes that finding that letter is the key to their client’s defense. Though not the best entry in this strong series—the plotting is a bit disjointed—the mix of racial tension and courtroom drama combines for a suspenseful thriller. --Mary Frances Wilkens --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Paul Madriani Novels (Book 9)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; Reprint edition (March 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061230898
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061230899
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.2 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #684,583 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Steve Martini was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area. An honors graduate of the University of California at Santa Cruz, he holds a law degree from the University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law.

Martini's first career was in journalism. He worked as a newspaper reporter in Los Angeles and as a correspondent at the California State Capitol in Sacramento, specializing in legal issues. In 1974 he entered private law practice in California, where he appeared in both state and federal courts. During his legal career, he worked as a legislative representative for the State Bar of California, served as special counsel to the California Victims of Violent Crimes Program, and was an administrative law judge and supervising hearing officer.

In 1984 Martini turned his talents to fiction, quickly earning positions on bestseller lists. All but his first book spent time on the New York Times Bestsellers list. To date, he has authored twelve novels, including eight featuring his popular lawyer alter ego, Paul Madriani.
In 1996 Undue Influence aired as a four-hour miniseries on CBS, followed by The Judge on NBC in 2001.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Brian Baker VINE VOICE on June 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I've been a Martini/Madriani fan for years. Martini has perfected the craft and art of the legal thriller far beyond the purported master, Grisham. In that particular arena, he fully realizes his capabilities in this novel.

The problem with this particular book is that the whole plot is predicated on the absolutely ridiculous idea that the murder victim has somehow turned one clause in the US Constitution dealing with the census apportionment of slaves -- which has been sitting there and been taught and explained in depth in every public school in the country since the Constitution was ratified in 1787 -- into a brand new and riot-inducing racial controversy that threatens the very fiber and existence of this country.

I mean....c'mon! It's so laughable I had to wonder what the guy'd been smoking!

I'd get all involved in the murder case and the investigation and the forensics and the personalities and the legalities of evidentiary matters and strategy.... and all of a sudden he'd write something that would once again remind me of the "motives" of the suspects, and I'd have to put it down until I stopped laughing!

Ah, well......... put THAT aside (yeah...ignore the elephant in the room) and it's a pretty good book.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Thriller Lover VINE VOICE on June 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Steve Martini is a legal thriller author who at once time was branded the next John Grisham. While Martini never quite reached that level of success, he has still produced a series of enjoyable courtroom thrillers involving a criminal defense attorney named Paul Madriani. SHADOW OF POWER is the most recent entry in the Madriani series, and it's just an okay read.

Nearly all of Martini's novels involve a high-profile criminal trial, and about two thirds of SHADOW OF POWER takes place in the courtroom. Martini is a criminal lawyer himself, and he usually does a solid job of describing the minutae of court procedure, especially when it comes to the complex process of admitting evidence to the jury.

Unfortunately, I think Martini goes overboard in this novel, spending countless pages on procedural manuevering that made my eyes glaze over in spots. I think a good writer knows what to leave out, and Martini gets a bit too long-winded with his detailed explanations of forensics and evidentiary law (which often trump character development). Some readers might find this material fascinating, but I just wanted Martini to get on with the story.

As other reviewers have mentioned, SHADOW OF POWER contains an over-the-top plotline involving the US Constitution that is hard to swallow. I think Martini decided to borrow a page from Dan Brown's playbook by promising to uncover a centuries-old historical conspiracy, but the whole concept really falls flat by the end, leading me to feel kind of cheated. I hope that Martini's next novel offers a more realistic plot than what I found here.

Overall, SHADOW OF POWER is an okay read, especially for those who enjoy a good courtroom story. You can do much worse than this book, but I think this isn't one of Martini's best efforts.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I really liked all of the Martini books I have read up until this one. I have to agree with most of the negative reviews here. The premise is outlandish and not believable. The trial details are somewhat interesting. The biggest problem for me was that precious little is revealed throughout 99% book, including through the trial verdict, and then the complete details of what happened are disclosed in the final five or ten pages, by the guilty party. I wouldn't recommend it. I do like Martini's writing style and I will read new books by him. I hope he takes some of the critisism of this book to heart and responds accordingly.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Roger T. Johnson on August 1, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This courtroom thriller rests upon a ridiculous and even laughable premise--that the words in the US Constitution sanctioning slavery could be used by a modern writer to produce a book that shoots to the top of best seller lists and causes race riots all over the country. The words in the Constitution that sanction slavery are clear to every high school student who actually pays attention, and Martini makes a most unconvincing case that anything new can come out of those eighteenth century words. The "Jefferson letter" turns out more like a Hitchcock McGuffin than anything realistic on which a genuinely genuine thriller would thrill. One final quibble--Martini glacingly refers to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's effort to pack the Supreme Court in 1937, and says that FDR was trying to amend the Constitution. Untrue. FDR was not trying to amend the Constitution because he didn't need to. Under the Constitution the Congress is empowered to establish a Supreme Court and to determine how many justices the Supreme Court will have. Over our history the number of Supreme Courts justices has varied from five to ten; in 1869 Congress set the number at nine, where it has remained. So, what FDR was seeking in 1937 was not a constitutional amendment but a simple Act of Congress to increase the number of justices from nine to 15. Congress refused. The point is that Martini should have researched his history more accurately.
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29 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Richard B. Schwartz TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Shadow of Power would be thought of by Hollywood as National Treasure meets Perry Mason. A murder is committed and, lurking in the background, is the possibility that a hitherto-unknown document, written by one of the founding fathers, is the cause of that murder. Paul Madriani defends the accused killer and needs to find the document in order to clear him.

The real national treasure is Steve Martini. This is, by far, his best book, and I have been with him since The Simeon Chamber. His sentence-by-sentence writing is now smooth and effective and he is the absolute master of courtroom drama, courtroom technique, courtroom chess matches and courtroom procedure. Shadow of Power has a jackhammer plot, interesting characters, and a fascinating set of related mysteries, all of which are nicely resolved. I disagree with those who find the novel implausible. The novel's subtext is the hyper-partisan nature of contemporary politics and the manner in which it is fed by demagogues and opportunistic media. The world of the novel is immediately recognizable.

Despite its length this is a very fast read. In fact, it's exhibit A for unputdownableness. It is the perfect model of a bestseller--a fabulous summer read that is filled with legal facts, tantalizing mysteries, and a touch of the old ultra-violence. Highly recommended.
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