So much of the action in this courtroom thriller happens outside the jury's purview that it makes one wonder if there's a touch of irony intended in the title. Paul Madriani, the lawyer-hero of five previous Martini novels
set in San Francisco, has moved to San Diego for reasons that are never made clear. He's taken on the case of David Crone, a doctor involved in mapping the human genome, who's been charged with the murder of his colleague, a young African American research physician whose ambitions threatened Crone's career.
Crone seems to have had ample motivation for killing Kalista Jordan: witnesses have testified to the friction between them, and Crone himself seems less concerned about the capital murder charge than about what may be going on in his lab. When a key witness for the prosecution dies in what looks like a suicide and leaves a note confessing to the murder, Crone is freed. And in an O. Henry-like twist in the last chapter, a most unlikely killer emerges and threatens Madriani's life.
But even this doesn't do much to enliven this slow-moving novel. There's very little tension on the page or in the plot, and neither the narrative nor the characters offer the reader the kind of excitement found in Martini's previous novels. --Jane Adams
From Publishers Weekly
Lean, speedy and packing a wallop of a plot twist at the end, the latest Paul Madriani legal thriller shows why Martini remains one of the form's most popular practitioners. Madriani, still struggling to establish his law practice in San Diego, is defending Dr. David Crone, a brilliant genetic researcher accused of killing colleague Kalista Jordan: her strangled and dismembered body was found washed up on a beach. Not only does all the evidence point to Crone, but his lies and deceptions are starting to test the patience of Madriani and his partner, the quick-tempered Harry Hinds. There may be motives aplenty was Jordan stealing trade secrets about human genome research from Crone's clinic and taking them to a rival company? Was Crone a spurned lover of the strikingly beautiful African-American Jordan? Did he catch her trying to sabotage his research because he previously had conducted controversial studies about the intellectual capacities of the different races? Unfortunately for the prosecution, the main witness who can shed light on motive is found dead the day before he is scheduled to testify. Not only does the apparent suicide break the prosecution's momentum, it throws the whole case into chaos. In his sixth Madriani novel, Martini (The Attorney) takes the moving parts of a standard plot and spins them for maximum effect. His secondary characters, while filling stock roles, are memorable in quirky ways, and a subplot about genetic illness in the family of one of Madriani's friends is executed with skill. Fans will happily overlook the frequently awkward, listless prose the most glaring drawback in what is otherwise one of Martini's best novels to date.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.