Dead Even

Dead Even

3.8 58
by Brad Meltzer
     
 

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Brad Meltzer's first novel, The Tenth Justice, was an instant New York Times bestseller when published as the launch title of Rob Weisbach Books. At the youthful age of 27, Meltzer was the youngest novelist on bestseller lists across the country. Paperback rights to the book were sold at auction to Warner Books for a seven-figure sum, and theSee more details below

Overview

Brad Meltzer's first novel, The Tenth Justice, was an instant New York Times bestseller when published as the launch title of Rob Weisbach Books. At the youthful age of 27, Meltzer was the youngest novelist on bestseller lists across the country. Paperback rights to the book were sold at auction to Warner Books for a seven-figure sum, and the movie rights were optioned by Fox 2000. Meltzer even flirted with Hollywood stardom, playing himself as an extra in Woody Allen's upcoming film.

One year later, 28-year-old Meltzer has written his much anticipated second novel, Dead Even, an energetic legal thriller that pits husband against wife in a shocking catch-22 situation. Following a six-month stint of unemployment, Sara Tate is eager to relaunch her career in the New York district attorney's office. However, when budget cutbacks are announced, the last hired is the first fired, and Sara's job is in jeopardy. Determined to keep her job in the DA's office, Sara is coerced by colleagues to take a case that will keep her in trial for months. The one thing that she doesn't know is that the case -- intended for a senior staffer -- is not what it appears to be: an apparently routine burglary hides a deadly conspiracy.

Meanwhile, Sara's husband, Jared, a defense attorney, has been warned by his firm's superiors that he needs to bring in new clients or he won't make partner. With this need for new clients, he jumps at the opportunity to take a case defending a wealthy new client. But soon Jared discovers that he's been set up. This wealthy new client is the same one Sara is set to prosecute. They both face the ultimate peril: Win the case at all costs or the other will die.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Just when you thought there were no more changes to be rung on the legal thriller, Meltzer follows up his bestselling inside look at the Supreme Court ("The Tenth Justice") with this sleek, suspenseful, only slightly unbelievable story about two young New York lawyers in love and in danger. Sara Tate and Jared Lynch are married to each other and to their legal careers: he's a rising star for the defense in a big firm; she's just starting as an assistant district attorney after six months of job seeking. On her first day, Sara hears that a budget cut could put her back on the unemployment lines, so she swipes a burglary case earmarked for a top man in the pecking order. But this is more than a routine burglary, and a powerful villain named Oscar Rafferty wants it to go away. He hires Jared to defend the accused, a sadistic monster called Tony Kozlow, telling him that unless Kozlow walks, Sara dies. While Jared grapples with the moral issues involved, and avoids telling Sara about the threat for hundreds of pages, another nasty type (whose fingerprints match several dead criminals) pushes Sara's grandfather down a flight of subway stairs and says he'll do worse to Jared unless Kozlow is convicted. Fearing for each other's safety, their marriage cracking under the strain, Sara and Jared joust in front of a grand jury and then get ready for trial, with Sara helped over some serious speed bumps by a nicely sketched young assistant and a tough prosecutor with a romantic interest. Several murders and a subway shoot-out eventually resolve this somewhat overlong but definitely compelling tale of legal and extralegal adventure.
Library Journal
After months of searching, Sara Tate has finally found a job as an assistant district attorney in New York City. But on her first day, she gets notified that, owing to budget cuts, she is going to be terminated--unless she can land and win a big case. Through some sleight-of-hand, Sara manages to grab the perfect case, but there's a catch: her husband, Jared, is the defense attorney. Dark humor (provided chiefly by Sara's trial preparatory assistant, Guff), legal action like Grisham, and nail-biting suspense make this a thriller in the true sense of the word. Meltzer (The Tenth Justice, LJ 2/15/97) gives the reader well-rounded characters; demonizing neither prosecution nor defense, he shows both as human beings doing a job.--Alicia Graybill, Lincoln City Libs., NE
Kirkus Reviews
A very aptly titled gripper (received too late for a full review) that will have Grisham slapping his wife's wrist in pique over the breakfast toast when he discovers Meltzer's plot for his second novel ("The Tenth Justice", 1997). Attorney Jared Lynch's Manhattan firm takes on the defense of a psychopath and hands the case over to Jared, who soon finds that he'll die if he loses this case. Meanwhile, in the assistant district attorney's office, Jared's wife Sara has the same case passed down to her and a similar stricture applies: She'll also die if she loses. And further, although prosecutor and defense attorney sleep together, the law forbids any trading of information between them, despite the lethal warnings that neither can tell the other about. To top all this off, author Meltzer is an attorney himself, which lends the novel's dialogue a sparkling undercurrent of real-life chitchat, not to mention the mutual saber-sharpening that readers will quickly pick up on and enjoy as a bonus.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780446607339
Publisher:
Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
03/28/1999
Pages:
560
Product dimensions:
4.25(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.25(d)

Read an Excerpt

"What if it's a disaster?" Sara asked as she got into bed.

"It's not going to be a disaster," Jared said. "You're going to be great."

"But what if I'm not? What if I'm just average? Maybe that's what they were trying to tell me. Maybe that's the lesson."

"There's no lesson, and you've never been average," Jared said, joining his wife under the covers. "It's just your first day of work. All you have to do is show up and be yourself." He shut off the lamp on his nightstand and reached for the nearby alarm clock. "What time do you want to wake up?"

"How about six-thirty?" Sara paused. "Actually, make it six-fifteen." She paused again. "Five forty-five. Just in case the train's running late."

"Shhhh, take a deep breath," Jared said. He propped himself up on his elbow. "It's okay to be nervous, but there's no reason to get nuts."

"I'm sorry. I just —"

"I know," he said, taking her hand. "I know what's riding on this one — I remember what happened last time. I promise you, though, you're going to be great."

"You think so?"

"Absolutely."

"You really think so?"

"Sara, from this moment on, I'm choosing to ignore you."

"Is that a yes or a no?"

Jared pulled one of the pillows from behind his head and held it over Sara's face. "I refuse to acknowledge that question."

"Does that mean we're done talking about work?" Sara asked, her laughs muffled by the pillow.

"Yes, we're done talking about work." Jared straddled his wife, keeping the pillow on her face.

"Uh-oh, someone's getting kinky." Sara tried to pull the pillow away, but she felt Jared press down even harder. "C'mon, that's not funny," she said. "It's starting to hurt."

"Stop whining."

"What?"she asked.

He didn't respond.

"I'm serious, Jared. I can't breathe."

She felt him moving forward on her chest. Her left shoulder was suddenly pinned back by his knee. Then her right.

"Jared, what're you doing?" She grabbed his wrists and dug her nails into his arm.

He only pressed down harder.

"Jared, get off me! Get off me!" Her body was convulsing now, violently trying to knock him from his perch. As her nails tore at his arms and legs, her lungs lurched for air. But all he did was hold tight. She wanted to stop fighting, but she couldn't. Choking on her own tears, she called out his name. "Jaaared!" she sobbed. "Jaaared!"

Jolted awake, Sara shot up in bed. Her face was covered in sweat and the room was silent. Jared was asleep next to her. Just a dream, she told herself, trying to stop her heart from racing. It's okay. But as she put her head back on the pillow, she couldn't let it go. Even more than the others, this one felt real. Her fears, his response, even his touch. All so real. It wasn't about Jared, though, she told herself. It was about work. To prove it to herself, she pressed her body up against her husband and wrapped an arm around his chest. He felt warm under the covers. Clearly, it was about work. She took a deep breath and squinted at the clock on Jared's nightstand. Two more hours, she realized. Only two more hours.

"Here's what I want," Jared said to the redheaded man behind the counter at Mike's Deli. "A sesame bagel with most, but not all, of the seeds scraped off, a light schmear of cream cheese, and a coffee — very light, with one spoon of sugar."

"That's nice, dear," Sara said. "While you're at it, why don't you just ask him to suck the nougat out of the Snickers?"

"Don't give him any ideas." The man behind the counter started on Jared's order. "In my whole life, I've never seen a man who gave more instructions for a stinking bagel and coffee. You'd think it was a work of art or something."

"Mikey, by the time you're done with it, it will be," Jared said with a wink.

"Don't suck up to me," Mikey said. He turned to Sara. "Now what does the normal half of the family want?"

"Whatever you want to get rid of. Just make it exciting-nothing plain."

"See, now that's why you're my favorite," Mikey sang. "No headache, no pain-in-the-ass demands, just normal, considerate —"

"Are you the manager?" a gray-haired woman with large glasses interrupted.

"That I am," Mikey said. "Can I help you?"

"I doubt it. I just want to register a complaint." She pulled a coupon from the pocket of her LOVE IS A PIANO TEACHER book bag and thrust it across the counter. "This coupon says that I get one dollar off a box of original flavor Cheerios. But when I checked the shelves, I saw that you're out of this item and that the coupon expires tomorrow."

"I'm sorry, ma'am, but we're a very small store with limited space. If you want, you're welcome to use the coupon on the other flavors of Cheerios. We have multigrain, and honey-nut, and —"

"I don't want any other Cheerios. I want these Cheerios!" the woman shouted, causing everyone in the small grocery store to turn and look. "And don't think I don't know what you're doing. When you print up these flyers with the coupons, you hide all the items in the back room. That way we can never redeem them."

"Actually, ma'am, we just don't have the space to —"

"I don't want to hear your excuses. What you're doing is false advertising! And that means it's illegal."

"No, it's not," Sara and Jared said simultaneously.

Surprised, the woman looked over at the couple, who were still waiting for their bagels. "Yes, it is," she insisted. "When he sends out those coupons he's making an offer for his products."

"Hate to break it to you, but an advertisement isn't an offer," Sara said.

"Unless it specifies an exact quantity or indicates exactly who can accept it," Jared added.

"Uh-oh," a man in line behind Sara and Jared said. "I smell lawyers."

"Why don't you both mind your own business?" the woman snapped

."Then why don't you leave our friend alone?" Sara said.

"I didn't ask for your opinion."

"And our friend didn't ask to be talked down to like he was a piece of garbage," Sara shot back. "Now, as a Cheerios lover myself, I can appreciate your frustration, but we don't go for that kind of unpleasantness here. Instead, we've taken a new approach: It's called acting civilly to each other. I can understand if you don't want to participate, but that's the way we play it. So if you don't like it, why don't you make like a coupon and disappear."

As Jared fought to contain his laughter, the woman sneered at Mikey. "You'll never see me in this establishment again," she seethed.

"I'll live," Mikey said.

With a sniff, the woman turned and stormed out of the store. Mikey looked over at his two favorite customers. "Make like a coupon and disappear?"

"What can I say? I was under pressure."

"It did get her to leave," Jared pointed out.

"You're right about that," Mikey agreed. "Which means breakfast's on me."

Fifteen minutes later, Sara and Jared were crammed in the middle of a packed-to-capacity subway car. Sara was dressed in her best navy-blue pantsuit, while Jared wore a frayed Columbia Law sweatshirt and a pair of jogging shorts. A long-distance runner since his early years in high school, Jared still had his athletic build, although a small bald spot on the back of his head made him feel far older than he looked. With his suit packed neatly in a trifolding backpack, he began every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with a half-hour run. "That's not a bad way to start the day," Jared said, pressed tightly against his wife. "Your first day on the job and you already have a victory."

"I don't know," Sara said as the train pulled away from the Fifty-ninth Street stop. "There's a big difference between cranky piano teachers and actual criminals. And if past performance is any indication, this job is going to be an even bigger loser than the last one."

"One stupid incident at one hotshot law firm means nothing about your value in the job market."

"But six months of looking — c'mon, Jared."

"I don't care, you're going to be great." Sara rolled her eyes. "Don't give me that look," Jared added. "I know what you're thinking and it's not true."

"Oh, so now you think you can read my mind?"

"I don't think I can read your mind — I know I can read your mind."

"Really?"

"Really."

"Okay, then, lover boy, take your best shot. What's going through my panicky little brain?"

Jared closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. "I see great unrest. Great neurosis. No, wait — I see a handsome, brilliant, casually dressed husband. My, my, my, is he a good-looking one. . . ."

"Jared. . . ."

"That's his name — Jared! My God, we're sharing the same vision."

"I'm serious. What if this job doesn't work out? The article in the Times. . . ."

"Forget about the Times. All it said was that the mayor was announcing budget cuts. Even if it leads to layoffs, that doesn't mean you're going to be fired. If you want to be safe, though, you can call Judge Flynn and — "

"I told you last night, I'm not calling him," Sara interrupted. "If I'm going to stay here, I want it to be because I deserve it, not because someone called in a favor."

Jared didn't argue the point further. Since they had first met, Sara never wanted special treatment — no professional favors, no help. Her independent streak ran deep: When Jared's uncle had offered to put in a good word so she could get an interview at his law firm, Sara had refused. To Jared, her logic was irrational and counterproductive. But Jared thrived on connections; Sara despised them. "I'm sorry I even brought it up," he finally said. "Besides, if this job doesn't work out, you can always find another."

Copyright ) 1998 by Brad Meltzer

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