Sunday, June 1, 2008

Review of Judgement Day

The inherent challenge in writing a legal thriller is to make it both legal and thrilling. Law, even criminal law, which one would think would be dramatic, is often boring to the point of tears. That's why a good legal thriller will hold off on the courtroom scenes until they are absolutely necessary.

Sheldon Siegel knows that courtrooms aren't given to drama, but that the legal profession, in certain situations can be. His latest legal thriller,
Judgement Day (MacAdam Cage, 2008), is heavy on the thriller and light on the legal. The sixth outing for San Francisco lawyers and exes Mike Daley and Rosie Fernandez, finds the pair taking a last minute death penalty appeal of Nathan Fineman, a one-time mob lawyer who ended up taking the fall for the murder of two heroin dealers. Fineman, never popular with the law and order crowd, maintains he fell from a window trying to escape the same gunman that killed the dealers, and that the police planted the gun. Complicating matters is the fact that Mike Daley's father was one of the cops at the scene of the crime. Figuring out if Fineman is innocent and who would want to set him up is no easy task, since he had a lot of enemies, and so did his clients.

Siegel's style is minimalist. He is heavy on the dialogue and light on exposition, so the book moves at a good clip, gathering momentum all the way. When the inevitable courtroom arrives it continues the story's momentum rather than bringing it to a stop. Seigel doesn't break out any real surprises, but he does turn in a solid thriller that keeps up the suspense right to the end.

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