Author:Smith, Allen J.
Position:Book review


by Joseph Finder

For lawyers who read legal thrillers, isn't half the fun looking for legal errors? When lawyers write legal thriller, they don't make--ahem, rarely--make those mistakes, so more of the fun comes from imagining oneself as that protagonist--crusading for clients, never stymied by continuances or overdue time sheets.

Joseph Finder's Judgment, out this month from Dutton, won't give you much pleasure in finding mistakes, but it will give you a terrific, turbo-charged plot and command you to keep reading. As the saying goes: I couldn't put it down.

Judgment differs from the standard legal thriller in that its main character is a judge. Juliana Brody, fortyish, is a rising star in the Massachusetts Superior Court, and Finder gives us a vivid picture of what that involves: the mentor, connections, rivals, paperwork, quiet clubs, and noisy fundraisers of a public life in law. Brody has a husband she loves, two children, a house in the suburbs, and countless invitations to speak at legal conferences.

It's at one of those conferences that Juliana makes the fateful mistake that is Judgment's inciting event. She has an extra glass of wine, then falls into conversation with an attractive man at the hotel bar, is moved by his heartrending story of a recently dead wife and immediate single-parenthood, and winds up going to bed with him. We don't know Juliana well at this point, but Finder unfolds the story in a way that has us nodding: of course, I see how that could happen. Who doesn't make compassionate mistakes?

That's what Juliana tells herself, anyway. One mistake, a city far from home, a complete stranger she'll never see again--until Monday morning when the stranger walks into her Boston courtroom, as a member of the defense team in the sexual discrimination case before her. From the way Finder tells it, I was hooked.

Joseph Finder's thrillers have always been uncanny in their...

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