Wednesday, August 31, 2011
The Tenth Case. Joseph Teller. MIRA Books (2009)
A highly entertaining courtroom drama that has a great cast, a smart plot and strong current of sharp humour. Jaywalker is a criminal defence lawyer who is about to be suspended for the methods he has employed to defend his clients. He is allowed to finish of ten of his current cases before the suspension comes into effect, the tenth case is a murder case. Samara Ross is accused of stabbing her husband to death, he was a billionaire and she was a waitress in Las Vegas before she became his third wife. The case against Samara gets more damming at every turn, in the face of it all Samara protests her innocence. Jaywalker commits to the case in the face of mounting evidence, determined that Samara should have the best chance she possibly can. The courtroom schemes are very well played out, the reveals are cunningly staged and the conclusion is entirely fitting and satisfactory.
Joseph Teller uses an interesting strategy in this story, he provides a very strong and visible authorial voice, so much so that it is a very significant character in the story. The effect is that the reader is being directly told the story about Jaywalker and his case with the editorial questions and opinions that would come naturally. What is impressive is that a process that could be distracting or overbearing adds greatly to the story. When required the storyteller steps back and allows the events to unfurl on their own, the switch is smoothly done and matches carefully to the requirements of the story.
Jaywalker is a great character, his headlong commitment to providing a defence for his clients, his passionate belief in the requirement to have a well prepared and thorough defence is stimulating and deeply engaging. His opponent is allowed to be a decent man who is trying to do is job as a prosecutor as competently and professionally as possible. Their courtroom actions are smart, articulate and gripping. Smara is nicely under explained, she has enough shadow to remain a question and to test Jaywalkers commitment to the limit.
This is a book with an opinion, willing to be angry and articulate without ever sacrificing one iota of tension or skimping on thoughtful plot mechanics. It is a pleasure to be buttonholed by Joseph Teller and to hear his story about Jaywalker.