March 31st, 2016 — 11:56am
COMPELLING EVIDENCE – by Steve Martini
Published in 1992
A friend of mine mentioned that he is a big fan of Steve Martini who has written 13 bestselling novels in which the main character is a lawyer and has some very exciting courtroom scenes. Since I have enjoyed a few of John Grisham’s novels and I am always drawn to a movie or a TV program with a good courtroom action, I decided to explore this series. I chose Martini’s second novel and the first one in the 13 published books that has this main character, attorney named Paul Madriani.
Compelling Evidence was published in 1992. It did not disappoint me. The author opened the story with a detailed and what appeared to be a very knowledgeable description of a prisoner being executed in a gas chamber as a death penalty was being carried out.
The story progressed as the reader was introduced to Paul Madriani. It was through his eyes that we view this captivating story. It puts the legal profession front and center as just about all the characters are lawyers. The victim of the current case in point is Ben Porter, a honcho of a large successful law firm. His wife, Talia is his accused murderer of him. We learn early in the story that Mr. Madriani had once worked at the Porter Law Firm and even had an affair with Talia. Mr. Madriani ultimately becomes her chief defense attorney and so the plot develops.
All the characters and details of this story are woven together quite skillfully. Although there is a lot of “lawyer talk”, the readers’ knowledge and background is never taken for granted. Through the narrative and the dialogue, we are always kept in the loop and are well-educated. We meet the district attorney and his staff and we clearly understand their role as well as the role and obligation of the police who had investigated the crime. When we are introduced to the judge, we not only appreciate his role and obligations but also get insight into his personal issues (he does not want anything to go wrong because a mistrial would reflect badly on him). We are not only given a good description of what is happening when there are various motions but we gain insight into the various opposing forces of this legal battle and what they are trying to accomplish. We come to understand the basic legal tenets of why no one accused of a crime is expected to take the stand to testify and how a jury is strictly instructed not to hold such a refusal against them.
Reading this novel is like taking a class in law school except we are caught up in the plot that rivals a TV courtroom or movie story. I must admit that we also were given a dose of cynicism from the author’s experience. For example the statement that popped up at an appropriate place threw me for a loop. Cases are won or lost not on the truth but in the predominance of perjury attended by witnesses on the stand who lie with impunity and then walk away. Shortly later, the author stated The law is no instrument for divining the truth.
In the end, I had a very enjoyable and educational experience. This 1992 novel was Steve Martini’s first novel in this series and I understand the fourteenth book is due out in May of 2016, I cannot help wondering if the author may have even raised his game with additional novels under his belt.
1 comment » | FL - Fiction Legal, FM - Fiction Mystery, Uncategorized
October 28th, 2014 — 3:28pm
The Children Act by Ian McEwan– Mr. McEwan is a prize winning best selling author of more than 15 books. For his latest novel, he has chosen to write about an established British woman judge who sits on Family Court cases. She deals with many types of heart wrenching situations of broken marriages, custody disputes and other issues which often lead to delicate ethical dilemmas, and which are really quite fascinating in and of themselves. However, in this novel the good judge, frequently called, “ My Lady” is faced with a personal dilemma herself as her husband threatens their marriage by telling her that he wants to have an affair with a particular younger woman. It should be noted that this domestic situation is not the same one, which she confronts in her courtroom; nevertheless it has an impact on her and begins to intrude in her thoughts. She usually is able to shake them off and when she does focus on her work we are made privy to fascinating human dilemmas. There are Siamese Twins who have to be split with one to be destroyed so the other can live. There is the classical case of a teenager a few months short of his 18th birthday that has leukemia and requires a blood transfusion to save his life and put his disease in remission. Alas, both he and his parents are devout Jehovah Witnesses who believe that it is God’s will that one should never have infusion of blood. They firmly believe this even if the failure to so will almost certainly lead to a painful horrible death. In this case, there are repercussions, which will advance the story.
I personally find that Mr. McEwan uses excessive dialogue to explain and illustrate the emotional situations, which he has already clearly described. This includes his description of dramatic interactions between people and even the powerful effect of music which he spends pages describing. It is not that this book is excessively long, as it clearly is not. Nor is the book lacking emotional impact. Perhaps because the author has the ability to come up with so many riveting themes, that I frequently felt he did not need to dwell on points he had already made. I found myself imagining this story being acted out on the Broadway stage with a handful of great actors, which I suppose is a backhanded compliment to this novel.
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May 16th, 2014 — 11:19pm
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult – This was the second Jodi Picolt novel which I had the pleasure of reading. The first was The Storyteller, which was about the granddaughter of a holocaust survivor who finds herself friends with a former Nazi Concentration Camp guard who killed many prisoners in the same camp where her grandmother was imprisoned. The elderly ill Nazi asks the grown granddaughter to hasten his death. Picoult obviously has the ability to extract the ethical issues which can go to the heart and soul of our humanity. In My Sister’s Keeper a child develops a potentially fatal disease, which is unresponsive to various treatments. Blood transfusions, bone marrow transplant and ultimately a kidney transplant would be necessary to keep her alive. Things look bad for survival, as treatment options appear to be running out. The parents and brother don’t have the right “match” to be useful and a search for the right donor seems futile. However, it is possible for anther sibling, not yet conceived, to be the right match especially if there are genetic manipulation performed which would choose the right embryo – a type of carefully selected artificial insemination using the biological parents. It works out great and the parents see the stem cells from the umbilical cord of the newly born child, which would normally be thrown away being transferred to their ill daughter. On subsequent occasions when there is a relapse, there can be blood transfusions from the younger sister. Even a bone marrow transplant would be life saving.
The majority of the book takes place after Anna the younger sister now 13, has decided to visit an attorney, Campbell Chance and request that she be allowed to make her own decisions on what part of her body is given to her sister. In other words, she wants to be medically emancipated. The author gets into the head of each character as each chapter is written in the voice of one the important players in this real life drama. Katie is the older sister who has been sick most of her life and yet feels close to younger sister who is now resisting giving her what she needs to live. Jesse is the brother who in response to the emotional turmoil in the family becomes a juvenile delighquent and somewhat of a pyromaniac. Brian is the father who happens to be a brave fireman and a caring, loving father to all three of his children. Sara is the mother who clearly would do anything to save her daughter. She happens to be an attorney and it seemed natural to her that when there was going to be a trial to determine if the younger daughter is to be free to make her own decision, she will defend the parent’s point of view that they can make the decisions for Anna. Campbell is the attorney who Anna has chosen to represent her. It turns out that his personal story informs us of another aspect of the dilemma as do the the feelings and experience of Julie, the woman who is chosen by the court to be the guardian ad litem for Anna By providing us with riveting insight into each of these people, the reader is swept up as if we are living through this painful scenario.
Life of course is filled with potential heartaches, which we all must experience, but to varying degrees and at different times Even though we know about the disappointments of life, illness and death that may be around the corner, rarely are there things that we have never heard about. The situation of expecting one child to dedicate and perhaps risk her life to possibly save the life and maintain the well being of a sibling is quite unique. While not exactly the same, it reminds me of Sophie’s Choice. Should the author give us a happy ending or any ending in fact, is an interesting question. Ms. Picoult certainly did not shy away by leaving the ending to our imagination, which a lesser author may have done. We are challenged to think through the horns of this ethical dilemma. We make choices in our mind but we are able to see the where they are going in this story and perhaps in the future with modern technology.
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November 23rd, 2012 — 11:35pm
The Rackateer by John Grisham
After I finished my last book, I didn’t have any books on my to read list so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with John Grisham’s approximately 30th book. I had only read a handful of the previous ones but they usually kept my interest. This was no exception but on the other hand I am usually content if I catch one of the CSI episodes on TV. We are introduced to Malcolm Bannister an ex- lawyer who has been disbarred and is in prison for getting ensnarled with racketeering charges while executing some real estate transactions. It seems clear that he didn’t deserve the bunch of years he was sentenced but there he is now functioning as a jailhouse lawyer trying to help other prisoners find out if they might get out on some technicality which they rarely do. In the course of doing this, he hears some pretty hairy stories about crimes solved and unsolved. We also learn that there is Rule 35 where a convict can get his sentence reduced and get out of jail if he provides information that can solve an important unsolved crime. Not surprising, the plot becomes somewhat convoluted and interesting as Bannister who had lots of time to plot out his path to freedom has worked out a very complicated scenario. Once he is on the outside as part of his plan to carry out all the details required and avoid getting bumped off by the bad guys, he has plastic surgery .He also becomes a fake documentary film maker (shades of the plot of the movie Argo). Grisham in the afterword of the book confesses that the book is not based on any particular case or insight into prisons, the FBI or anything else. There really isn’t any moral point or lesson to be learned. Of course Grisham is a lawyer and he usually writes about legal stuff and there is plenty of that in this book. Most of all he is a good story teller. He obviously let his imagination take off and he doesn’t disappoint.
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September 26th, 2012 — 9:57pm
The Litagators– John Grisham
When John Grishman takes you in the legal world, you feel that everything is real and possible. This story examines product liability, class actions suits and ins and outs of taking up battle with a major corporation that produced a product that may have some bad effects even death. The main characters are two lawyers who have a storefront office that they like to call a “boutique law firm” They are basically ambulance chasesrs who do inexpensive divorces cases and the like. If you have seen the TV series Harry’s Law, you have the set up that I pictured as I was introduced to these attorneys. Except these two guys don’t seem to be as bright or as idealistic as the lawyer played by Kathy Bates in that program. These two bumbling lawyers are joined by David a young hot shot Harvard Law School graduate who got fed up with his $500/hour corporate law job as a junior associate in a big time firm and found his way to them through some unlikely circumstances. Soon you have David leading his little firm against “Goliath” which includes a brilliant beautiful sexy lawyer. Things don’t always turn out as you expect. The book will hold your interest and will make you think twice next time a new drug is prescribed for you or you pick up a new toy for your kid that he might put into his mouth.
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