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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous! Nov. 18 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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5.0 out of 5 stars What a Start! Sept. 3 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
First novels are usually like first kisses: the expectation exceeds the performance. Not in this exceptional and exceptionally complex legal thriller by Stephen Horn, a former Justice Department lawyer.
With the complexity of John Grisham and the flip humor of Robert Parker, Horn has crafted a memorable first novel. His protagonist, Frank O'Connell, has reversed the usual trend, starting at the top and hitting the lawyer's rock bottom of seedy , appointed-lawyer cases. He has walked out the door on a brilliant career, a top-flight Washington, D.C. firm headed by his father-in-law and a marriage to the wonderful Moira which had produced a son he adores and sees too seldom. Suddenly in the door walks Ashley Bronson, a stunning heiress who has this little problem: She has just shot a man to death and wants Frank to defend her.
But Frank falls in love with her and pulls out all stops to defend her in a case so complex as too seem a tad unlikely. How it all works out, and how he navigates the minefield of being in love with two women while amidst a legal minefield makes for a great read.
Please, Mr. Horn, don't quit while you're ahead but instead give us another Frank O'Connell tour de force.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Trial Lawyer's Book. May 18 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Not since John Grisham's early work A Time To Kill have I read a book that tells the tale from the standpoint of a real trial lawyer.
We meet Frank O'Connell, a criminal lawyer with a doubtful future, largely the result of his own pride and arrogance. Handling CJA (Criminal Justice Act) cases in the DC Superior Court, Frank manages to insult a young corporate litigator assigned to appear for the celebrity defendant of the year, the lovely Ashley Bronson, painter and self-admitted killer.
This chance meeting proves fateful as she appears in Frank's office to retain him. Only a trial lawyer would understand his response when she hands him a list of defense counsel and asks if he is as good as the people whose names are on the list. "Yes" he replies, never looking at the list.
We learn that the prosecutor is pro, two Yale degrees, and three prosecutions so important that the courtroom artists sketch of him in action hang in his office. Frank fails to flinch, despite his modest circumstance. It is only then we learn of his own sterling credentials, the Manhattan DA's office, thirtysomething murder trials (all convicted) and the head of the white-collar crime section before moving to Washington to join his father-in-law's bigtime practice, only to leave as his marriage crumbled.
What follows is the perspiration of trial practice, punctuated by sudden insights, and luck-both good and bad. Consumed by the desire to win, the need to win, Frank prepares himself for the battle. Like every good trial lawyer, he never gives up, he never commits to a strategy so completely he cannot revise or abandon it on a dime, he never loses faith in his ability to deliver a verdict in the courtroom (well almost never).
I enjoyed it greatly.
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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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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not nearly as good as Law of Gravity, but...
Stephen Horn's first novel has one of the best scenes I have ever had the pleasure to read and visualize. Read more
Published on April 23 2004 by Frank Luther
5.0 out of 5 stars I can't wait for the next book
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
3.0 out of 5 stars A wondeful debut!
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 more
Published on June 18 2002 by "bibliofiend"
3.0 out of 5 stars 3. 5 stars - Mixed Feelings
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 more
Published on June 14 2002 by P. Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun Example of the Genre
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 more
Published on Jan. 16 2002 by John M. Wirth
5.0 out of 5 stars Didn't want this book to end!
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 more
Published on Nov. 29 2001 by "msterry@prodigy.net"
4.0 out of 5 stars Welcome Stephen Horn to the Courtroom Genre!
"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 more
Published on Oct. 16 2001 by Coalpuss
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome...A Great First Novel!!
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 more
Published on June 6 2001 by fjmcmm
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read says the Author of $oft Money
If this is Stephen Horn's debut work, I look forward to seeing more. This is a good legal thriller worthy of a Grisham comparison. Read more
Published on May 20 2001 by Eric L. Burton
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