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In Her Defense Mm [Mass Market Paperback]

Stephen Horn
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 15 2001

Frank O'Connell's need to live on the edge cost him his family, his home, and a partnership in his father-in-law's prestigious D.C. firm. Then Ashley Bronson walks into his life. The murder of a former cabinet official has just propelled her from the society column to the front page, and, inexplicably, she wants Frank to defend her. Frank thinks his biggest challenge is defending a client against the prosecution's overwhelming evidence. He's got a lot to learn. Subsumed in a defense in which ethics are bent and morals compromised, a desperate Frank hits upon an inspired strategy -- and unwittingly becomes a dangerous threat to people in high places -- a threat that must be stopped no matter what the cost. Confronted by forces they don't understand, besieged lawyer and client have only each other as the courtroom battle begins....

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From Amazon

In Her Defense is a sharply funny and ironic debut legal thriller that obligingly serves up all the best elements of the genre: a seemingly unwinnable case, mysterious forces conspiring against the attorney and his client, and a tumblingly relentless pace. D.C. defense attorney Frank O'Connell isn't climbing the career ladder anymore--he's been to the top, looked around, and then jumped. Deeply unsatisfied with his comfortable life, he's abandoned a successful partnership with his powerful father-in-law, jettisoned his marriage, and is clinging to an uncertain existence funded by court appointments to represent indigent shoplifters and drug dealers: "I was in trouble and I knew it. I'd come to rely on little tasks and routines, like closing the sofa bed each morning and washing the dishes as soon as I ate--not to mark my progress but as hedges against a backslide into oblivion."

Enter Ashley Bronson, a beautiful and wealthy socialite who stands accused of murdering her father's best friend, Raymond Garvey. Ashley claims that Garvey drove her father to suicide but won't explain how or why. Frank is a pragmatist, keenly appreciative of life's myriad ironies: "I could probably design a trial strategy around her physical assets alone--get a jury of men, put her on the stand, and have her look 'em in the eye and talk. Christ, she could read the phone book and we'd get a deadlock. It was too bad I knew she was guilty." Ashley's admission of guilt and Frank's desperate attempt to create a trial strategy over, under, around, and through that admission make for a cleverly Machiavellian legal procedural. Add to this Frank's growing conviction that something isn't quite "clicking" in this seemingly open-and-shut case, and you've got a narrative that accelerates toward an unashamedly over-the-top denouement. In Her Defense is a welcome addition to a crowded genre--we hope that Frank O'Connell (and Stephen Horn) will be around for many more pitched legal battles. --Kelly Flynn --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

To say that the defendant in this crisp, intriguing debut is guilty is to give nothing away--she admits it herself early on, which makes for a very original take in a court procedural. And while the novel follows the usual format (lawyer on the rocks gets big case that could put him on top), perhaps it's that opening gambit that makes everything feel fresh and original. Attorney Frank O'Connell has given up the perfect life--wife, child, a prestigious job at his father-in-law's Washington law firm--to be a public defender. His previous good fortune, he believes, was handed to him on a silver platter, and he wants to earn his laurels the hard way. But just as he's wondering if he made the right decision, he stumbles on a case that might restore him to professional eminence. Socialite Ashley Bronson is accused of murdering Washington bigwig Raymond Garvey, and freely admits that she did it, blaming Garvey for her father's suicide. Hunting down connections between Garvey and Bronson, and attempting to raise reasonable doubt by finding other people who might have wanted Garvey dead, O'Connell and investigator Walter Feinberg begin to see signs of a conspiracy; to start with, the only person who witnessed Ashley leave the scene of the crime is a CIA agent. The first-person narration is sharp and intelligent, and Horn delivers on both the pretrial back-and-forth and the courtroom scenes, especially the cross-examination of the CIA witness. There are the expected lawyer/client romantic complications, but O'Connell also maintains strong ties with his ex-wife and his six-year-old son. Horn is a master of the small and telling twist, whether he is charting O'Connell's love life or the fate of his client. Eschewing glitter for solid, intelligent storytelling, Horn's impressive first effort is eminently satisfying. Agent, Peter Lampack. 100,000 printing; $150,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild/Doubleday Book Club selection. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not nearly as good as Law of Gravity, but... April 23 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Stephen Horn's first novel has one of the best scenes I have ever had the pleasure to read and visualize. In Chapter 10, the main protagonist, Frank O'Connell, a somewhat down-and-almost-out lawyer, who also happens to be a Vietnam combat veteran, takes on a very snooty, highly pretentious old school attorney by the name of Robert L. Burnside. O'Connell puts the ol' sourpuss neatly in his place after sitting through a sermon of threats by this blowhard barrister to sue our hero for slander. You can almost see the sweat on Burnside's brow and smell the soiling of his neatly pressed pants when O'Connell finishes with him. John "Lilly" Lelankevitch of EVIL, BE GONE (also available on Amazon.com) would really like Frank O'Connell. This book is worth buying just to read this scene (pages 148 to 153).
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5.0 out of 5 stars I can't wait for the next book July 22 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In a few words, Stephen Horn captured me on the first page and held me until the last. He has that rare ability to spin an outstanding yarn.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Attorney Stephen Horn has just written... Aug. 28 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
his second novel, and I caught up with his first, "In Her Defense", recently. The book is a great read. The legal plot is complex and takes a simple case of murder and mixes it with a government plot. You're not sure who the bad guy is until the very end! One thing you do know is that Horn's hero, Frank O'Connell, is a principaled attorney who has left the comfortable life of his father-in-law's law firm in order to pursue criminal matters, his passion from his days in the NYC D.A.'s office.
No one, not Frank's estranged wife Moira, his son, his beloved father-in-law, a Washington D.C. "fixer", his client, or his investigator really understands what makes Frank tick, and why he's pursuing the kind of court appointed criminal cases he's taken. Enter a society homicide, complete with ethical temptations, and O'Connell & the story are off and running.
Fast paced, great characters, and the promise of more to come from Frank O'Connell make "In Her Defense" a worthy read!
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3.0 out of 5 stars A wondeful debut! June 18 2002
How do you prepare a defense when your client openly admits that she killed someone? That's what we're about to find out. Frank O'Connell's life is in shambles. He walked away from a profitable position in his father-in-law's firm and his marriage is in the dumps. He's wondering how he's going to make ends meet and continue on when a rich socialite walks into his office and tells him she wants him to defend her against a murder charge for which she is guilty. From here, the author takes you on a roller-coaster ride of murder, deceit, and a government secret that has been kept buried for half a century. I definitely look forward to reading more by this author.
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3.0 out of 5 stars 3. 5 stars - Mixed Feelings June 14 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I have mixed feelings about this book. In parts, it really had me hooked, but in other parts, I felt the story was weak, and some plot points were slightly implausible. The plot is relatively familiar; a talented lawyer with problems of his own must "rescue" an accused damsel in distress. Of course, his defense team will consist of the all-too-familiar grizzled-but-wise ex-cop or PI, and at least one fresh-behind-the ears intern. But a few interesting angles are thrown into the mix. Ultimately, I felt that the main character's relationships with the 2 main women in the story weren't quite right. And I found the wrap-up to the main mystery in the story to be a little unsatisfying. But overall, I did enjoy this book and would recommend it to fans of the genre.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fun Example of the Genre Jan. 16 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Is this a five-star book? Of course not. The Bible, Hamlet and The Grapes of Wrath are five-star books. But, among the genre, this is a four-and-one-half to five stars. It is fun. I cannot wait for this authors next book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Didn't want this book to end! Nov. 30 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Our book club chose this as our November selection. I didn't know what to expect and even dreaded the length of the book. It hooked me from the first page, and it was hard to put down as I followed the twists and turns of the plot. The main characters in the book are the kind of people I'd love to meet, and the DC location was comfortably familiar. Loving a mystery, this didn't disappoint me at all. It would be great to read the continuing story of Frank... maybe another case?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous! Nov. 19 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I read this novel today (riding back from The University of Philidelphia, where my son was playing football, while my wife was driving), and could not put it down til the end!
It was very realistic.
I am a trial lawyer, at Buffalo NY, who has tried murder cases in NY and US Courts.
I think this book is fabulous; because it captures the "feelings" of a murder trial, which is surely the "superbowl of criminal defense lawyers."
Indeed, defense lawyers have feelings and are not just "a head of cabbage, " as Oliver Wendell Holmes noted.
I love the risk of gambling at trial, but feel tormented by cases where clients confess their guilt, but there is perjury against them.
Defense lawyers have "feelings" about clients; and yes, they fight against prosecutorial misconduct, even when their clients are wrong.
They say: "If you can railroad the guilty, it's easier to railroad the innocent."
Although the author of this book is a former prosecutor (which I tend to detest), he has a uncommon grasp of the emotions of defense counsel; yes, even when the lawyer thinks his client is guilty.
This novel is an excellent portayal of the conundum defense counsel feel when prosecution witnesses are lying; but the lawyer wonders if the client should have taken a plea bargain anyway.
I hope the author gives me another novel to scrutinize.
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