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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.
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.
Stephen Horn's first novel has one of the best scenes I have ever had the pleasure to read and visualize. Read morePublished on April 23 2004 by Frank Luther
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.Published on July 22 2003 by David R. Vincent
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. Read morePublished on June 18 2002 by "bibliofiend"
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. Read morePublished on June 14 2002 by P. Thompson
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. Read morePublished on Jan. 16 2002 by John M. Wirth
Our book club chose this as our November selection. I didn't know what to expect and even dreaded the length of the book. Read morePublished on Nov. 29 2001 by "email@example.com"
"In Her Defense" is the first novel for Stephen Horn and if it's any indication of his talent this reader is very impatient to find his next book. Read morePublished on Oct. 16 2001 by Coalpuss
This is a very good debut novel. It was really hard to put down. Mr Horn is definitely someone to watch. I've already added him to my "favorite authors" list. Read morePublished on June 6 2001 by fjmcmm