April 03, 2012

BOOKS: Heart of a Killer, David Rosenfelt (2012)

We start off with an interesting legal story, but Rosenfelt buries it under a silly thriller and an unfortunate choice of narrative tone.

Sheryl Harrison has more than 20 years left on the prison sentence she's serving for killing her husband, a crime which she has never denied committing. Her teenage daughter has a bad heart and a rare blood type, and Sheryl wants to be allowed to donate her heart to save her daughter; the state of New Jersey is understandably reluctant to let one of its inmates kill herself, no matter how noble her motive.

Her lawyer, Jamie Wagner, has been content to coast along in the middle of the pack at a large law firm, but finds himself actually caring about this case. It seems his only hope of getting Sheryl what she wants is to prove that someone else actually committed the murder, thus freeing Sheryl from prison.

But then along comes a ridiculous story about domestic terrorists with whom Sheryl's husband was somehow involved -- I never did quite make sense of the connection, and I'm pretty good about following complicated plots -- and the book goes rapidly to pot. It's not helped by Jamie's narrative voice, which is smirkier and more wisecracking than the relatively serious story can bear. (Rosenfelt's best known books are a series of dog-centered legal dramas; I haven't read them, but given the dogs, I assume they're a bit lighter than this, and that such a smirky tone would probably be more at home there.

Promising start, but ultimately a disappointment, and I wouldn't recommend it.

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