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Anthologies often have a way of dulling the senses. The varying styles of the several authors, despite the theme that ties them together, can have the taste and feel of cotton candy: initially sweet, but ultimately cloying and too insubstantial for lasting value. However, William Bernhardt has put together a collection by best-selling author-attorneys that's more engaging than most and that stands the test of being read from cover to cover. Although the two richest stories (John Grisham's "The Birthday" and Richard North Patterson's "The Client") have been printed previously, the remaining nine can be safely recommended and serve as a solid introductions to each of the writers included.
Bernhardt explains in his introduction that the only limitations set on the contributors were those imposed by their own imaginations, and most took the opportunity to write of an intriguing character or plot twist not found in their longer efforts. Steve Martini's "Poetic Justice," for example, is a witty fantasy pushing the limits of the cliche that cheaters never win, while Philip Friedman envisions a much darker world in which the protagonist, en route to argue against the death penalty, finds himself embroiled in random violence that mirrors the crimes of his defendants and evokes ghosts in his past.
Although the stories are a pleasure to read, Bernhardt's introduction to the collection would have been sufficient: the additional prefaces to each story are unnecessary. And while the authors' postscripts provide insights into their motivations for writing, they are the kind that are best saved for talk-show interviews (Grisham wisely lets his story speak for itself). These are, obviously, minor flaws. On the whole, the collection serves its purpose: a broad and diverting introduction to the genre of legal thrillers and their most skillful authors. --K.A. Crouch
What makes a good legal thriller tickAthe slow accretion of details, the teasing plot twists, the gradual unveiling of character, the bracing mind gamesAis not, as a rule, the stuff of short stories. For this reason, it comes as no surprise that many of these 11 stories, while diverting, are punchline-driven. Jay Brandon's "Stairwell Justice," for instance, concludes preposterously when a prosecutor flees to a tropical island with a seductive defendant. Even the darker tales end cutely (and is there a reader even casually versed in noir fiction who won't suspect that the sadsack lawyer in Grif Stockley's "The Divorce" is being hoodwinked by his gorgeous "size 5" client?). Two stories are notably subpar: John Grisham's maudlin four-pager about a "good doctor" destroyed by an act of malpractice, and Steven Martini's extremely broad satire about a shady lawyer felled by his evil twin, President Clinton. Martini alternates between unfunny prose and embarrassing doggerel: "Way down in that murky depth/ A serious streak of dishonesty crept"). There are only a few pleasures to be had here: Richard North Patterson's "The Client" is a lovely, hushed character study of an elderly mentor ushering a recent law-school grad into "his world, as rare and special as a daguerreotype"; and Phillip Friedman's "Roads," about a death-row attorney, resonates beyond the (literally) bang-up conclusion.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
If you expect a lot from this book as a legal thriller, then you sure will be disappointed. However, it's a good collection of short stories written by many writers. Read morePublished on March 12 2002
This book is a great read for short story lovers and legal thriller buffs. It is nice to have a respectable collection of short stories in this genre. Read morePublished on July 17 1999
This is a great sampler for the legal-thriller reader wishing to branch out from Grisham. (Whose contribution, incidentally, is not up to par). Read morePublished on June 15 1999