Sleuthing California defense counsel Paul Madriani lands one of his twistiest cases to date. His client, sport fisherman Jonah Hale, won $87 million in a lottery but lost his heart. Jonah's got custody of his eight-year-old grandkid Mandy, because his daughter Jessica is a cokehead party animal. Sprung from jail, Jessica demands cash. Jonah says no. So Jessica and Mandy disappear, with help from marital-rape-victim-turned-fanatical-activist Zolanda Suade. Suade's group, Vanishing Victims, specializes in thwarting courts and bashing rich males.
Madriani tries to reason with Suade, who almost pulls a gun on him, then taunts him with a press release: Suade's going public with Jessica's charge that Jonah molested Mandy. Madriani's girlfriend works in Child Protective Services, so he gets a tidbit or two of inside info--the charge is phony, but because CPS can't comment on cases, the smear will suffice to ignite a media firestorm. When Suade turns up dead, media interest does not subside. In court, circumstantial evidence forms a tightening noose around Jonah's neck, and Madriani starts wondering whether Jonah did kill Suade. Also, underworld types who may know Jessica and/or a Mexican drug lord start stalking Madriani, and more corpses pop up.
Martini, who covered the Manson trial, then became a lawyer and a bestselling novelist, is great at realistic, ingenious courtroom suspense, media-circus scenes, and dramatizing the impact of office politics on legal proceedings. His characters and prose are workmanlike but sturdy. Always grouped with lawyers-turned-writers Scott Turow and John Grisham, Martini thinks Turow's a better writer (in terms of character and dialogue), and Grisham's a natural-born storyteller who towers over all, but that he, Martini, is a better storyteller than Turow and a better writer than Grisham. The Attorney is evidence that he may be right. --Tim Appelo
From Publishers Weekly
The tireless Paul Madriani, Martini's popular lawyer/sleuth (The Judge; Compelling Evidence), barely has a chance to hang a shingle in San Diego--where he has moved to be closer to his lover, child advocate Susan McKay--before he is sucked into another engrossing court battle. When Madriani takes on elderly Jonah Hale's case, it seems at first he is dealing with a simple kidnapping. Hale's granddaughter, eight-year-old Amanda, under Hale's custody, has been whisked away by Zolanda Suade, who runs Vanishing Victims, an organization that purports to rescue kids from abusive situations. Now Suade is falsely accusing Hale of molestation to justify returning the girl to her mother--Hale's drug-addled, ex-con daughter, Jessica, who's never shown any interest in raising her child. Suade apparently has an ulterior motive: keeping Amanda in hiding until she can extort a hefty ransom from Hale, who recently won $87 million in the state lottery. Before Madriani, with Susan's expert assistance, can get far in his investigations, Suade is found shot to death, and Hale, who had plenty of motive to kill him, is arrested. Madriani is increasingly overmatched by a dogged prosecutor. Worse, those assisting Madriani in Hale's defense keep getting murdered, and Madriani may be next in line. Except for the occasional cliche (bodies lined up "like cordwood," minds "like steel traps"), Martini's prose shows marked improvement. Crisp dialogue and tart observations about legal maneuvering distinguish his courtroom scenes, and the new setting, San Diego, is colorfully rendered. It's a shame that the otherwise cleverly conceived plot falters in the homestretch with a poorly concealed twist that most readers will see coming well ahead of time. Mystery Guild main selection, Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club selections. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.