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Donna DiTullio, a stressed-out tennis prodigy who attempts suicide at age 22, sustains massive paralytic injuries in the wake of a five-story fall from an atrium balcony at St. Anne's Hospital. The maimed girl's distraught parents retain Sheridan to sue the hospital, its owner (the Roman Catholic Archdiocese), and her physician—Dr. Robert Sexton, a world-class psychiatrist. Mother Church quickly calls in heavy-hitting Charles Finnerty to defend its financial interests. With help from partner Tom Buckley, the undaunted plaintiff's counsel begins digging into the backgrounds of everyone connected to his client's near-fatal plunge. In the course of these inquiries, Sheridan unearths disturbing evidence that Sexton's top-drawer credentials mask a dark past. While the opposition gets the better of preliminary courtroom skirmishes, Sheridan (a resilient Vietnam vet) soldiers on, even managing to establish rudimentary communications with voiceless Donna. The game gets appreciably rougher as the determined advocate presses for answers to the question of why a vulnerable mental patient was left unattended in an open area, and hHe eventually comes close enough to the truth to draw potentially murderous fire from an anonymous assailant while jogging. Before the proceedings are fairly under way, however, Sheridan risks all to engineer an ethically iffy, out-of-court confrontation that ensures approximately appropriate forms of justice for all parties.
Although a seemingly pivotal character (a psych-unit nurse) drops out of sight early on and Sexton's use of a Prozac-like medication turns out to be a red herring, Reed once again makes the machinations of big-time attorneys immensely entertaining.