Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Case of Redemption

 by Adam Mitzner

Gallery Books    2013
322 pages     Fiction

We expect three things out of a legal thriller--twists, turns, and drama. We expect that the lawyer will be smart and intuitive, and that he will be compassionate and willing to take on the unwinnable case. We expect that the lawyer will be great in the courtroom. We also expect that the lawyer will not be living an ordinary life. Oh, and we also expect some beautiful woman will cause romantic problems for the lawyer. Those are some of the makings of a good legal thriller.

All of these are at play in Adam Mitzner's new novel, A Case of Redemption. Dan Sorenson had just become a partner in a prestigious New York Law firm, when his life is shattered by the death of his wife and young daughter in a car accident. He descends into a stupor of grief and alcohol from which he cannot seem to emerge, so he takes a leave of absence from the firm. He is drawn back to work by a young lawyer named Nina who wants him to defend a rapper named Legally Dead. LD, as he is known, is accused of killing his girlfriend, who is an up-and-coming pop star. The weapon seems to be a baseball bat given to the pop star when she sang the national anthem at a baseball game. 

Nina drags Dan out of his drunken state and they begin to create a defense for a man who from every standpoint appears to be guilty. Slowly Dan finds himself coming back to life. He also finds that his emotional recovery seems to be dependent upon a growing romance with Nina and the innocence of LD. Of course, all is not as it  seems, and the conclusion of A Case of Redemption is especially surprising and catastrophic.

Mitzner does a particularly good job of making us sympathize with Dan's emotional turmoil. The hell he descends into at the death of his family is laden with guilt because he feels that he had devoted himself too much to his work before the car accident and not given his family enough attention. Even the lure of the beautiful Nina doesn't completely assuage him of his grief. I like that Mitzner understands the nature of grief--its ability to come and go--and how often guilt gets mixed up in grief. Dan is a totally believable character; his grief is painful to read about. 

The other well-realized character in the book, Nina, is another story. We think that we know her, but there are parts of her that just don't ring true. I rather liked this element in the plot; it's like your doubts about her give you an inside track to the solution to the puzzle. She does a great job of motivating Dan to come back to his career, but you still have an uneasy feeling about the whole relationship thing. Something's just not right.

Do you have to be a lawyer to write a good legal thriller? I rather think so, because the pacing of the trial is crucial to the plot of a legal thriller. Mitzner is particularly adept at keeping the reader on edge during the trial. His other book, A Conflict of Interest, which came out in 2011, was equally well paced. I expect that we will see more books featuring Dan Sorenson, when he comes back from his self-imposed exile on the beautiful island of St. Martin.

A good review in Kirkus Reviews:
The review in the New York Journal of Books:
 Another lawyer thriller that you might like would be Defending Jacob by William Landay.

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