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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
The future looks bright for Michael Garrick, a young lawyer working in the White House Counsel's office. Only six years out of law school, he's a rising star in the Hartson administration, doing challenging, useful work. Besides that, he's just begun a relationship with the vivacious Nora Hartson, the President's daughter (a jealous colleague has branded him "The First Counsel").
On their first date, Nora eludes her Secret Service escort and brings Mike to what they subsequently realize is a gay bar. Later in the evening they spy Mike's boss, White House Counsel Edgar Simon, at the bar. Intrigued (Simon is supposedly happily married), they follow him to a deserted stretch of woods, where he leaves an envelope containing $40,000. Already confused, Mike becomes even more flustered when he discovers that Nora has impulsively taken $10,000 from the envelope, which, to his dismay, is discovered in his glove compartment by a DC cop, who later pulls them over, suspecting them of being drug dealers. This being an election year, Mike gallantly tells the cop that the money is his, thereby helping Nora avoid scandal.
Mike spends the next few hours screwing up his courage to tell ethics officer Caroline Penzler about Simon's actions. When he finally does, she informs him that Simon had accused Mike of the same thing. Penzler is murdered only a few minutes after Mike departs, and circumstantial evidence mounts against him. Finding himself hip deep in a vast conspiracy that threatens to cost the President his reelection, Mike struggles to prove his innocence, even as he protects Nora from exposure.
If I had to sum this book up in one sentence, I'd describe it as a blend of elements from Kevin Costner's film No Way Out (itself an update of the classic Ray Milland movie The Big Clock, adapted from the Kenneth Fearing novel) and TV's megahit, The West Wing: a classic race against time flavored with an insider's view of the White House. Although it's true that the "lawyer in trouble" subgenre is getting crowded, The First Counsel is well worth your time -- its impeccable pacing and Meltzer's uncanny talent for cliffhangers make for compelling reading. How compelling? Well, I started reading this at 10pm on a Tuesday and finished it early the next morning. Draw your own conclusions.
Hank Wagner is a book reviewer for Cemetery Dance magazine and The Overlook Connection.