In his first courtroom drama, The Advocate's Devil
, Alan M. Dershowitz introduced us to defense attorney Abe Ringel as he represented a rapist. That book probed a controversial legal issue--what happens when a defender doubts his own client's innocence? In Dershowitz's second legal thriller--Abe (along with the whole judicial system) is confronted with a still bigger dilemma: Is a Holocaust survivor entitled to seek revenge on the perpetrator who butchered his family some 50 years earlier?
Max Menuchen was just 18 years old when Captain Marcelus Prandus of the Lithuanian Auxiliary Militia forced his family (and dozens of other Jewish families) into the Ponary Woods in Vilna, Lithuania, making them dig their own graves. The young man could only watch as Prandus shot his pregnant wife, Leah, and baby boy, Efraium. Escaping a similar fate by "dumb luck," Max survived the bullet, but not the torment and guilt that would haunt him for decades. Then, in 1999, Max makes the chilling discovery that Prandus escaped any punishment and now lives in a small Massachusetts town, surrounded by a loving family.
The world didn't care about what happened in the Ponary Woods. That was what was destroying Max. That was what drove him to the vengeance in which he was now engaged.
Determined to make the former Nazi suffer, Max and an old acquaintance kidnap Prandus, tie him to a chair, and psychologically torture him. Prandus then commits suicide to escape his own "suffering." Max now stands accused of murder--and his old friend Abe Ringel must prove that the revenge was just, for the sake of the Menuchens and for all those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis.
The legal mechanics of Max's trial are hardly exceptional (author Dershowitz has a tendency to slip back into his other role as Harvard law professor, and we sometimes feel more like students than readers). However, the moral implications of such a controversial trial make Just Revenge a compelling, and ultimately thought-provoking, read. --Naomi Gesinger
From Publishers Weekly
Who determines justice? In this thought-provoking and ambitious novel, lawyer and Harvard professor Dershowitz creates a decide-for-yourself scenario that is both chilling and life affirming. Elderly scholar Max Menuchen is a Holocaust survivor who endures haunting memories of the 1942 massacre of his infant son, pregnant wife and extended family in Vilna, Lithuania. His grandfather's last cry for revenge echoes constantly in his mind, even after he emigrates to America and builds a successful career. Finally, after a lifetime of survivor guilt, a chance encounter in Cambridge, Mass., leads him to the Nazi killer of his family, Marcelus Prandus, who lives nearby, surrounded by his children and grandchildren, his past never revealed to his American-born family. To prosecute him for war crimes appears to be futileAPrandus is terminally ill and would die before any trial came to pass. Overcome with frustration and a burning need to avenge his family's deaths, MaxAan otherwise gentle, kindly academicAconceives a plan to punish Prandus that is both shocking and brilliant. Ultimately, a psychologically devastated Prandus takes his own life. Is Max responsible for his death? Were his actions morally acceptable? And of immediate relevance, were they legal? Defense lawyer Abe RingelAreturning from Dershowitz's previous novel The Advocate's DevilAtakes on his old friend Max's case and seeks to prove that retribution and justice are not irreconcilable. Full of clever twists, Dershowitz's latest endeavor is intricately plotted, though the dialogue is on the stiff side and frequently more utilitarian than conversational. Subtlety is not Dershowitz's strong suit, nor is literary finesse, but he makes up for these shortcomings with the dramatic and tragic events that frame the plot, and the intensity of his moral argument. He dedicates the novel to the members of his family who were killed by the Nazis and their collaborators. Agent, Helen Rees. 5-city author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.