Elizabeth Finnegan is a brash, young, opinionated and outspoken beautiful young women living an outrageously off-the-wall, outré lifestyle. A talented and busy litigation lawyer in a well-respected downtown law firm, she's also not afraid to loudly voice her liberal, left-leaning political views. When Hugh Vandergraaf, a charismatic senior judge with aspirations to the US Supreme Court, hands down a slap-in-the-wrist sentence on a rape conviction, Finnegan goes ballistic. She holds a press conference liberally dispensing with vicious sound bites in which she criticizes the judge as a brainless "ego-testicle" member of some old boy's club. Of course, this earns her a trip to the proverbial judiciary woodshed in which she is soundly spanked and given a warning by Judge Vandergraaf to conduct herself with greater decorum lest she be hauled up before the bench on charges of contempt.
Still seething from the very public dressing down she had received at Vandergraaf's hands, Finnegan is appalled when, a few days later, a woman arrives in her office with a story that Vandergraaf had raped her when she was attending university more than twenty-five years earlier. Although the rape is statute barred in the state of Washingtonbecause of the elapsed number of years, Finnegan is told that the act was actually committed on a sailing trip in Canadian waters. When she undertakes to charge Vandergraaf in Canadaand extradite him to face a Canadian justice system (which has no such statute of limitations on sexual assault or rape), she is sued for slander in Washington. If she loses, she faces a lifetime crippling $4 million in punitive damages and the certain loss of her career.
"Slander" is a riveting courtroom drama that is at once witty and humourous, gritty and compelling, emotionally moving and thought-provoking. It touches upon important timely issues such as pro-choice vs the right to life anti-abortion movements, custody of children by gay parents and when free speech crosses the line into hate and the advocacy of criminal activity. Ultimately, Finnegan receives much more than she ever bargained for in an unforeseen twist ending that would do the likes of Jodi Picoult very proud.
I've been a long time fan of Canadian author William Deverell since his spectacular 1979 debut thriller "Needles" that dealt with the violent drug trade in Vancouver, then touted as the heroin capital of North America. Thirty years later, "Slander" certainly does nothing to diminish my enthusiasm for the skills of this fine author. Highly recommended.