District Attorney Butch Karp and his pistol-packing wife Marlene Ciampi, the liveliest crime-fighting couple in New York, are back in True Justice
. The first set of infanticides happen on Butch's watch: a wave of gruesome incidents in which newborns are killed or abandoned by their indigent teenage mothers. The second, Marlene's case, is straight out of the headlines: a middle-class college girl and her boyfriend are indicted for first-degree murder in the death of their baby after a concealed pregnancy.
The most interesting story belongs to Lucy, Butch and Marlene's teenage daughter, an incisively brilliant and complex young woman who deserves her own novel. Lucy's best friend's parents seem to have been murdered by an African furniture restorer of whose guilt Lucy is unconvinced. The real solution to the mystery of who killed the Maxwells is telegraphed well in advance, but all the crimes give Butch, Marlene, their colleagues in criminal justice, and even Lucy a chance to weigh in on the law's fault lines and the ironies implicit in what passes for justice in America. But it's Lucy's spiritual quest that provokes the book's most unusual and involving drama. Lucy's devout Catholic faith, like her prodigious talent for language (she can speak 14, but give her five days in a foreign country and that'll be 15, thank you), is a mystery to Butch, a lapsed Jew, and Marlene, who has trouble squaring her own faith with the violence that attends her job. When a Jesuit priest tries to explain it in the following passage, Butch is nonplused:
"Lucy takes her spiritual responsibilities very seriously. And of course, in the current age, when people think there's no such thing as spiritual responsibility, she has nothing to compare herself to, and so she may get herself painted into a corner."
"I'm not sure I follow," said Karp.
"Oh, I mean, two or three hundred years ago, a girl with her talents and predilections would have been in an order, with hourly guidance and a rule to follow. Think of Mickey Mantle being born in, say, Romania in 1830. The talent's there, but there's no cultural space for it."
This is a keenly intelligent book, many cuts above the usual courtroom procedural. The most interesting things happen outside the courtroom--the moral dilemmas, the political choices, the bonds between parents and daughter. The pacing is as swift as the dialogue, the characters are piercingly illuminated, and the philosophical jousting is worth a room full of Jesuits. This reader is heading straight for Tanenbaum's backlist and eagerly anticipating another novel with Lucy as the star. --Jane Adams
From Publishers Weekly
A rash of baby killings positions a pair of married lawyers on opposite sides of the moral and legal fence in the latest multifaceted installment of this legal-thriller series (after Act of Revenge). Tanenbaum brings back assistant district attorney Butch Karp and feisty spouse Marlene Ciampi when three infanticides involving young unwed mothers are discovered in New York City. City politics and legal circumstances force Karp to prosecute a young Hispanic girl who appears to be the most culpable of the three. While Karp is embroiled in his case, lawyer Ciampi is busy with her own challengeAprotecting battered women from violent ex-husbands. When she is forced to shoot a man after he guns down his wife and then aims the weapon at his own daughter, Ciampi realizes she has had enough and decides to retire. Shortly afterward, however, a lawyer friend convinces her to represent a young woman in Delaware who is accused of killing her newborn baby. Contrived though the plot may be, it provides an apt vehicle for Tanenbaum to dissect the legal and moral mechanisms of the two cases, while exploring their effects on his protagonists' professional and personal lives. An intriguing subplot involves the couple's deeply religious daughter, Lucy, a linguistic prodigy. When the parents of her wealthy friend Caitlin are killed in cold blood, Lucy's instincts help identify the murderer. The resolution of Ciampi's case seems a bit na?ve and optimistic, but Tanenbaum rises above the inherent manipulation in the story lines with his usual combination of intelligent, wry dialogue, a well-designed maze of political and moral traps, and the charming and incendiary chemistry between Karp and Ciampi. For those who prefer their legal thrillers with plenty of spice and a high IQ, Tanenbaum remains an essential addiction. (Aug.)
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