It's not a legal thriller ... it's a legal procedural.
Dec 26, 2009
Despite being firmly slotted into the legal thriller genre, Steve Martini's novel "Double Tap" is most unequivocally not a thriller. And while that may sound like bad news for potential readers and existing Steve Martini fans, that statement is most unequivocally not a condemnation or criticism of what is an exceptionally interesting novel.
The story is simple. Madelyn Chapman is a powerful, wealthy, beautiful, and extremely self-indulgent business woman - the CEO of a high-tech software firm whose main customer is the US government. She has been found in her home murdered with two very tightly grouped gunshot wounds to the head. This particular style of murder is called a "double tap" in the trade and is typically the signature of a professional assassin who, by the bye, is also a superb marksman.
The case against Emiliano Ruiz, a career soldier, is rock solid and defense attorney Paul Madriani is worried about his inability to explain certain obvious gaps in his client's military résumé that Ruiz steadfastly refuses to clarify. In the face of almost overwhelming evidence against his client, Madriani doggedly investigates the case and begins to bump into dangerous secrets that the government, the military and the new CEO of Chapman's firm would prefer stay under the darkest and deepest cover.
In the same manner as a police procedural is not a suspense thriller, "Double Tap" is not a legal thriller. It's definitely a legal procedural with an almost encyclopedic wealth of fascinating minutiae on the details of a trial for capital murder - the pre-trial investigations that would be undertaken by a defense attorney; motions and counter motions; side bars; forensic examination of evidence; objections sustained and over-ruled; side bars; characterization and selection of "expert" witnesses; potential grounds for appeal and mistrial; jury selection; discovery; arraignment; witness lists; required disclosure of evidence; media coverage; and much, much more.
Steve Martini's description of Emiliano Ruiz's trial for murder was compelling and utterly absorbing - the proverbial page turner, to be sure - but, sadly, the ending when it came was almost anti-climactic. In all fairness, the clues were all there and the characters had definitely been introduced in the course of the novel. To call the ending "deus ex machina" would be quite incorrect. But, in comparison with the body of the novel, it arrived with a bit of a thud and was definitely a let down.
One star reduction from what would otherwise have been a five star barn burner. Highly recommended.