With his terrific first novel, Special Circumstances, Sheldon Siegel delivered legal fiction so exciting, it drew comparisons with the very top tier of courtroom thrillers. Now he has a new challenge for defense attorney Mike Daleyex-priest, ex-husband, ex-public defenderand it’s a high-profile zinger: a case he doesn’t think he can win for a client he can’t stand.
It starts with a phone call Mike Daley never expected to get, from District Attorney Prentice Marshall Gates III, San Francisco’s chief law enforcement officer and front-runner candidate for California attorney general. Friends they’re not, but Gates needs Daley nowbadly. He’s just been arrested. A couple of hours earlier he woke up in his hotel room and found the dead body of a young male prostitute in the bed. Prosecutors are already talking the death penalty, and there’s nothing in the mounting evidence to convince Daley and his partnerand ex-wifeRosie of Gates’s innocence. But even if he’s lying, it’s their job to defend him.
Sure enough, the deeper Mike and Rosie dig, the seamier their findings. From a shady Internet entrepreneur who trades flesh for cash to a prominent businessman who uses muscle to keep his enterprise prospering, Mike and Rosie chase down leads that take them from the depths of the Mission District, where drugs and bodies are always for sale, to the gated mansions of Pacific Heights, frantically trying to piece together the shocking truth of what actually happened, even as the trial itself is under way.
"I look around the table: my ex-wife, my ex-girlfriend and me. We aren't a law firm we're a support group. Somebody will probably name a 12-step program after us." That's Mike Daley ex-priest, ex-public defender, ex-partner in one of San Francisco's fanciest law firms describing his new team of criminal defense specialists, housed in a former martial arts studio in the Mission District. It also sums up the considerable charm and strength of Siegel's second Daley vehicle, following on the heels of the well-received Special Circumstances. Daley is an original and very appealing character in the overcrowded legal arena a gentle soul who can fight hard when he has to, and a moral man who is repelled by the greed of many of his colleagues. His latest adventure starts with a bang: Prentice "Skipper" Marshall Gates III, San Francisco's district attorney and the man responsible for getting Daley fired from his law firm, is discovered at the Fairmont Hotel next to the naked dead body of a young male prostitute. He asks Mike to defend him on murder charges, then proceeds to lie to him and withhold vital information so often that a defense lawyer with a more macho self-image would quit in anger and disgust. But Daley believes Skipper is innocent and his struggling little firm needs the money. The central parts of the book, the investigations and the trial itself, are sluggish in spots and inflated with pregnant pauses, but in the end Siegel is so good at making readers believe in Mike Daley's decency that they'll be willing to forgive any narrative lapses. Agent, Margret McBride. Major ad/promo; teaser chapter in Special Circumstances. (Aug. 7) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.