High school student Laura Wright and her drama teacher Mr. Mooney are rehearsing for the school play in his apartment when both are shot dead. The prime suspect is Laura's on/off boyfriend, 17-year-old Andy Bartlett, reputed to be jealous of Laura's crush on the teacher.
Defense attorney Amy Wu, an associate in Dismas Hardy's law firm, gets the case. However Amy's dad died recently and she's been drinking and partying too much and using good judgment too little. Thus - without Andy's agreement - Amy makes a deal for the boy to "admit" to the crimes. This is supposed to guarantee that Andy will be incarcerated in the juvenile system for 8 years rather than being tried as an adult and risking life in prison without parole. When Andy refuses to "admit" this "misunderstanding" leads to the wrath of the prosecutor and judge, who think Amy tried to pull a fast one.
To help Amy out of the hole she dug herself Hardy says he'll act as second chair (i.e. assistant) during Andy's subsequent court hearings. Once involved in the case Hardy launches his own investigation, questioning witnesses and examining evidence in the author's usual satisfying style. Meanwhile, Hardy's cop friend Abe Glitsky - now San Francisco's Deputy Chief of Investigations - is dealing with a bizarre string of serial murders around town.
I thought the early part of the book - dealing with Andy's admitting or not admitting - was too slow and drawn out. Past that part, though, the action picked up, the story got more intricate, and the intermingling of Hardy's and Glitsky's cases was deftly handled. Overall a good mystery book.