Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Losing Faith by Adam Mitzner

Legal thrillers are not a genre of fiction I read a lot of simply because good ones are so thin on the ground. I do remember picking up Scott Turow’s great thriller Presumed Innocent and being rapt. To this day it sets a standard against which other writers are judged. I should also state for the record that I am no legal scholar. The morass of legal considerations which might keep a confessed criminal from punishment make me anxious.

Adam Mitzner’s third novel is a curious thing. There seemed to be a large hole in the logic of the case he brought to our attention, which I realized later was supposed to create suspicion in the reader’s mind about the facts laid out by the author. Unfortunately, I was instead confused as to how we got here in the first place: it seemed Judge Nichols was well and truly screwed no matter what she did…and then she was murdered.

The successful head of a large New York law firm, Aaron Littman, involves himself sexually with a married federal court judge, Faith Nichols, who happens to be on the short list for the Supreme Court. Six months after they begin their liaison, she is the presiding judge over a case Aaron is arguing. Neither party recuses themselves. Aaron loses the case & his client goes to jail. The relationship ends.

When Faith is murdered, evidence of the relationship comes to light and Aaron is in the frame for the deed. The bulk of the novel revolves around Aaron’s trial.

Mitzner seems to present correctly the technical bits about objections and evidence but I wasn't sure he got the motivations of the characters right. One could argue that a legal thriller is really a psychological drama and the thoughts and motivations of the characters are at least as important as physical evidence, which as we all know, can be ambiguous, tampered with, lost, or destroyed.

I think by now all of us can imagine a powerful man, say the head of a large New York law firm, with a zipper problem. It is harder to imagine the flip side of that: a Supreme Court nominee willing to risk her career and her future for a relationship that could go nowhere. And Aaron’s associate Rachel did not have enough motivation to perjure herself under oath, to my mind. Love, sure. Gratitude, maybe. Promise? Hope? Nah. Maybe a man could do it, like Aaron’s mentor Rosenthal, for instance.

Anyway, it is an interesting set of circumstances that Mitzner provides and it is a good book to take to the beach. It is involving enough to keep you guessing and working out what the characters (and the author) could have done differently.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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