For Butch Karp, chief assistant district attorney for New York County, the nightmare begins when a shocking act of negligence results in homicide. Goaded by the media's sensational publicity, the public is screaming for blood, and Karp's boss, D.A. Jack Keegan, is listening. He has ordered the prosecution of a fifteen-year-old for murder, intent on making a very public example of the girl. A Hispanic from a poor neighborhood, she's an easy mark for big-city bureaucracy and bigotry. It is Butch Karp's unpleasant job to see that the prosecution gives the public what it wants: a quick and thorough administration of hard-line justice.
Complicating matters further is Butch's wife, Marlene Ciampi, a private investigator who has decided to return to practicing law. Her first case takes her a few hundred miles south to a small Delaware town, where an equally unspeakable tragedy has taken place. Marlene, however, has the unenviable task of taking on a politically ambitious local prosecutor who is pressing to charge a suburban teenager with capital murder.
With Butch and Marlene squaring off on opposite sides of an increasingly incendiary national debate, things couldn't get any more tense...until a shocking turn of events puts their daughter, Lucy, at the center of a horrifying crime. Suddenly, everything they believe in is challenged, and they are drawn into a maelstrom of big-city politics and small-town values, where justice is sacrificed to the twin gods of public perception and expediency -- and Karp must struggle to salvage his self-respect, his career, and his life.
A rash of baby killings positions a pair of married lawyers on opposite sides of the moral and legal fence in the latest multifaceted installment of this legal-thriller series (after Act of Revenge). Tanenbaum brings back assistant district attorney Butch Karp and feisty spouse Marlene Ciampi when three infanticides involving young unwed mothers are discovered in New York City. City politics and legal circumstances force Karp to prosecute a young Hispanic girl who appears to be the most culpable of the three. While Karp is embroiled in his case, lawyer Ciampi is busy with her own challenge--protecting battered women from violent ex-husbands. When she is forced to shoot a man after he guns down his wife and then aims the weapon at his own daughter, Ciampi realizes she has had enough and decides to retire. Shortly afterward, however, a lawyer friend convinces her to represent a young woman in Delaware who is accused of killing her newborn baby. Contrived though the plot may be, it provides an apt vehicle for Tanenbaum to dissect the legal and moral mechanisms of the two cases, while exploring their effects on his protagonists' professional and personal lives. An intriguing subplot involves the couple's deeply religious daughter, Lucy, a linguistic prodigy. When the parents of her wealthy friend Caitlin are killed in cold blood, Lucy's instincts help identify the murderer. The resolution of Ciampi's case seems a bit na ve and optimistic, but Tanenbaum rises above the inherent manipulation in the story lines with his usual combination of intelligent, wry dialogue, a well-designed maze of political and moral traps, and the charming and incendiary chemistry between Karp and Ciampi. For those who prefer their legal thrillers with plenty of spice and a high IQ, Tanenbaum remains an essential addiction.