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Preposterous from start to finish
on September 3, 2012
I love a good legal thriller, so when I saw the many positive reviews of this book I was eager to give it a try. It was a huge disappointment.
Isaacson has built this story on the premise that no matter how intelligent the characters in his book appear to be, they will always make the worst possible decisions, regardless of the circumstances.
The basic story is that a corporate attorney, Scott Heller, who on a whim accepts a client who has hit and killed a child with his car, then drove away from the scene. The client wants Heller to negotiate a plea bargain before turning himself in, and naturally wants Heller to keep his name a secret (attorney/client privilege) until a bargain has been reached. This is where the story starts to go awry. The D.A. simply refuses to talk with Heller unless he first reveals who his client is - even through revealing the name will naturally lead to his client's arrest.
For anything else in the book to make sense, you have to accept the premise that a D.A. and police, eager to find the person responsible for the hit-and-run death of a child, won't even talk to the driver's lawyer. Even after all other avenues of investigation reach a dead end, they would rather close the case than simply say, "Ok. Let's see. Your client wants to turn himself in, and that's the only way we'll ever have justice. Let's see if we can work something out that meets both of our interests." All of this happens within the first couple of chapters, and the entire balance of the story rests on this foundation.
Of course, the child's mother finds out that Heller knows the killer's name, and begins stalking him and his family for the rest of the book.
One more example [SPOILER ALERT]...
At one point, Heller's wife gets a call from the school nurse asking her to come pick her daughter up rather than having her go home on the bus. The victim's mother has been stalking the bus stop, so until this point in the story Heller's wife has been meeting her daughter each day when she gets off the bus to keep her safe. There is a restraining order in place that the victim's mother has violated repeatedly and flagrantly. When Heller's wife gets to the school at dismissal time, she discovers that it wasn't the nurse who called, and that her daughter is on the bus, where she will soon get off without her mother's protection, presumably into the hands of the stalker. In this situation, would you:
a) Ask the school to radio ahead to the bus so that they won't let the daughter off at the bus stop
b) Ask the school to call the police with the hope that they can make it to the bus stop and keep her daughter safe from the stalker
c) Say nothing, and instead go back to your car to drive home, hoping against hope that you can get there before the bus - even though you know that's impossible. And, when you can't find your daughter spend precious minutes calling all of her friends rather than calling the police who might be able to find and save her.
If you guessed "C" you've figured out how intelligent people behave in this novel.
In the end, another outlandish series of coincidences serve to bring the story to its conclusion.
There are a lot of great legal thrillers out there. This is not one of them.