Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Review of "Fox is Framed" by Lachlan Smith




Twenty-one years ago attorney Lawrence Maxwell was convicted of murdering his wife. Since then prosecutorial misconduct was proven and Lawrence's conviction was overturned. Now the district attorney intends to try him again. Lawrence's two attorney sons, Leo and Teddy, plan to assist Lawrence's court-appointed defense attorney. The situation is complicated, though, because Teddy - once a formidable lawyer - was shot and brain-damaged five years ago; and Leo, who found his mother's body when he was a child, believed his father was guilty and became estranged from him. Now Leo is rethinking Lawrence's guilt though some people still believe Lawrence is a manipulative liar who committed the crime.

The DA's office turns up new evidence in the form of Lawrence's former jailmate Russell Bell, who says Lawrence confessed to the crime when they were in prison together. Ironically, Russell, who was convicted of rape, is now free because Lawrence helped him write an appeal. To add to the weirdness, Russell is working as a driver for the city councilman who originally testified against him.

Russell Bell is murdered before he can testify, potentially placing Lawrence on the hook for two murders: that of his wife and Russell. In any case the DA begins by re-trying Lawrence for killing his wife. The ensuing courtroom scenes are compelling, with the lawyers and witnesses sparring to gain an advantage with the jury. Meanwhile Leo, now pretty solidly in his dad's corner, is working behind the scenes to discover who really killed Russell Bell.

Other interesting characters who round out the story include Angela Crowder - the tough, smart district attorney; Nina Scuyler - Lawrence's clever defense lawyer; Teddy's wife Tamara - who's also brain-damaged and has no short term memory; Lawrence's fiance Dot - who got engaged to him ten years ago when he seemed to be in prison for life; Neil Shanahan - the detective determined to prove Lawrence's guilt; and Judge Liu - who does things by the book.

The story starts out strong, introducing the characters and setting up the situation that leads to Lawrence's retrial. The side plot involving Russell Bell is also interesting for a good while. By the end, though, the explanation of what happened with Russell is so tangled and confused as to be almost incomprehensible. Just an okay mystery.

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