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Indefensible: A Novel

Indefensible: A Novel

5.0 1
by Lee Goodman

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In the bestselling tradition of Defending Jacob, this taut legal thriller follows the trail of a man determined to protect his community—and his family—at any cost.

Sometimes a simple walk in the woods can lead you down the deadliest of trails…

When birdwatcher Cassandra Randall stumbles upon two men digging what appears to be a


In the bestselling tradition of Defending Jacob, this taut legal thriller follows the trail of a man determined to protect his community—and his family—at any cost.

Sometimes a simple walk in the woods can lead you down the deadliest of trails…

When birdwatcher Cassandra Randall stumbles upon two men digging what appears to be a grave in a state park, she immediately reports it to the authorities. Federal prosecutor Nick Davis is initially incredulous about her claims, but he agrees to investigate. To his surprise, the far-fetched account turns up a body, and Nick is drawn into a case that will shake both his morals and his personal life to their very core.

One body quickly leads to another. The danger Cassandra has uncovered is just the beginning of a game of deadly stakes that implicates small-time drug dealers, petty thieves turned murderers, domestic abuse perpetrators, child pornographers, the highest offices of the legal system…and a criminal who is closer to Davis than he can even imagine.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 04/14/2014
In Goodman’s stellar first novel, a legal thriller, 53-year-old federal prosecutor Nick Davis is beguiled by Cassandra Randall, an attractive birdwatcher who happens to have witnessed a surreptitious burial in an unnamed state park that could be in New England. Cassandra guides the authorities to the site, where they unearth the body of a young man, who turns out to be “a shy and likable kid who was selling pot to pay his college tuition.” More deaths follow. Nick, who heads the criminal division of his district’s U.S. Attorney’s office, turns for help to such distinctive supporting characters as his world-weary FBI agent friend, Chip d’Villafranca, and colleague Upton Cruthers, his probable successor if Nick gets a Circuit Court judgeship. A “rotten summer” of killings turns into a bitter autumn of self-doubt for Nick, who wrestles with both the prosecutor’s sin, failure of objectivity, and the defender’s, failure of loyalty. Nick knows that he must hold fast to the law, until he learns the cost. Agent: Janet Reid, FinePrint Literary Management. (June)
Suspense Magazine
"Goodman takes the reader by the hand and leads them into a frightening world they will never forget.... This book is top notch!"
John Lescroat
"Complex and intelligent, fantastically well-plotted. Indefensible is as good as it gets."
William Kent Krueger
"Indefensible is the kind of gem we all love to stumble on, anovel that delivers its story flawlessly. Lee Goodman has created characters wecare about deeply; when he puts them through the wringer, we feel their pain.Add to this a compelling insider’s look at prosecution and lawenforcement, language that sings, a stunning series of plot twists, and theresult may well prove to be the outstanding debut novel of the year."
Walter Walker
"Lee Goodman is a rare find in a crowded field: a talented writer who knows the true intricacies and ironies of the American criminal litigation system. Before reading Indefensible, be sure to put on your helmet and fasten your 5-point harness. You're in for a wild ride."
"As legal thrillers go, this one is right up there with the best of them. That’s not because of its nonstop action, but because of its slow-burn pacing, unpredictable characters, and lots and lots of plot switchbacks....And the big bonus is that author Lee Goodman’s writing style makes me want to come back for more. And more. And more."
“Goodman ties up every loose end in surprising ways, making for a deeply satisfying read.”
“…Goodman easily makes the transition to fiction writer, as have his brethren Scott Turow and John Lescroart.”
Library Journal
Nick Davis, an assistant U.S. attorney, has been fortunate throughout his career by being in the right place at the right time. His personal life has been less lucky, and now with an appointment to the U.S. Circuit Court on the line, a messy case involving four murders rears its ugly head and his private life becomes entangled with his work. As Nick tries to sort out the good guys from the bad guys, he begins to realize that the law is less rational than he previously thought and sees that his role of applying the law as written is not wholly objective either. VERDICT Goldman's debut legal thriller is compelling from start to finish—well-written, populated with intriguing multidimensional characters, and with many plot twists leading to a surprise ending.—Lisa O'Hara, Univ. of Manitoba Libs., Winnipeg

Product Details

Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt


  • I don’t honestly expect to find a body. Someone has to go look, though, and on a day like this—the first Friday in June with the memory of cold winter lost beneath the trilling surface of summer—volunteers abound. Carpe diem; I have been offered an excuse to spend a couple of hours in sunshiny woods.

    We take the river road to the highway, passing century-old mill buildings. Some are crumbling, encircled by chain-link and razor wire, and others are merely shuttered. They seem to stretch for miles, rotting corpses of an old economy, lining the banks of the Aponak River.

    The westbound ramp will clog to a standstill by midafternoon, everyone going to lakes or mountains, but it’s early now, and I speed around the curve with tires squealing. On the highway, other travelers are making an early break from the city. Some have windows open, husbands driving while their pretty wives ride shotgun with hair blowing in the wind and flip-flopped feet up on the dash. Kids ride in back with Nintendos and iPhones, ball caps pulled low. A dog in a minivan paints the rear window with slobber as I pull alongside, and a boy presses his face to the side window and watches me. He thinks I’m a criminal because I’m at the wheel of my Volvo wagon doing twenty over the limit with the troopers behind me, blues-and-reds flashing, and behind them is the coroner’s van (just in case), its antennas bending in the wind. I slow enough to give the boy a goofy, cross-eyed look, and he responds with a smile so huge and gap-toothed that I’m laughing out loud with my head pressed back against the seat. The boy laughs too, and his mom, fresh from the pages of L.L.Bean’s summer catalog, looks over. We exchange knowing parental smiles. Then I speed away.

    “Oh God,” says my daughter, Lizzy, in contempt of my inexplicably good mood, “you’re such a . . . weirdo.”

    I look in the rearview for a glimpse of her complex smile. Lizzy is fourteen. Everything is a test.

    “I’ve never seen a dead body before,” Lizzy says.

    “Redundant,” I answer. “The word ‘body’ implies it’s dead.”

    She thinks for a second, then snaps, “That is so not true. Like in health class, they used to say, ‘At a certain age, you begin to notice mysterious changes in your body.’ ” (This last part she squawks in her old-biddy voice.) “So are we all, like, dead?”

    “Point taken,” I say, “but in any case, you’re not going to see any dead body, you’re staying in the car. And there might not even be a body.” I look at Cassandra, who is in the front seat beside me. Cassandra smiles and says, “I guess we’ll see.”

    If I really believed for a second we’d find a body, I wouldn’t have come myself, and I certainly wouldn’t have brought Lizzy. Crime scenes aren’t places for teenage daughters. But with Cassandra here beside me, I need to pretend there’s a possibility. Cassandra is a civilian. I’ve known her under two hours. She is dressed in olive cargo pants with the cuffs tucked inside white socks. She wears a tight pink tee, which would look silly on a woman her age—early forties—except that she also wears a loose, unbuttoned work shirt over it, changing it from inappropriately adolescent to enticingly youthful. She is a younger version of my ex-wife, Flora, Lizzy’s mom.

    “We should have brought Bill-the-Dog,” I say to Lizzy, “maybe let her run in the woods.” I explain to Cassandra that Bill-the-Dog is Lizzy’s border collie, a female.

    “Oh, sure,” Lizzy says in a mocking voice, “Bill could help you dig. Maybe she’d find herself a nice arm or leg bone to chew on.”

    “Well, I didn’t mean let her out at the scene; I was thinking we could stop on the way home. Pick up sandwiches someplace and . . . you know.” I stop. The idea is ludicrous: turning a possible crime scene visit and exhumation into a picnic with the witness. I brace myself for the onslaught of Lizzy’s ridicule, but in the rearview, I see her watching Cassandra.

    “Oh, that sounds lovely, Nick,” Cassandra says, “let’s do.” She turns to look at Lizzy in the backseat. “Is Bill-the-Dog named for Bill-the-Pony? From Tolkien?”

    “My mom named her,” Lizzy says. “My mom’s kind of weird, like she has this sign outside the house: WELCOME TO MIDDLE EARTH.”

    “Do you have a dog?” I ask Cassandra.

    “Definitely,” Cassandra says. “Having a dog is one of the best things about being human. One of the ten best.”

    “And the other nine?”

    “I don’t know. Love, dancing, good coffee, kids, summer? I never made a list. But if I did, dogs would be on it.”

    “Jane Austen would be on it,” Lizzy says, and I look in the rearview just before her mouth tightens into a disdainful line of pursed lips. But it was there for a second: her metal-mouth smile showing those red-banded braces like a centipede across her teeth.

    Cassandra turns again to look at Lizzy and says, “Definitely Jane Austen.”

  • Meet the Author

    Lee Goodman’s work has appeared in the Iowa Review, where it received a nomination for the Pushcart Prize in fiction, and Orion Magazine, among other publications. During the summers, Goodman works as a commercial fisherman in Prince William Sound, where he operates his own salmon fishing boat. He is also a screenwriter and an attorney with a small practice in workers’ compensation law. Goodman has taught fiction writing at the University of Alaska and at Interlochen Academy for the Arts. He lives in Alaska with his two children.

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    Indefensible: A Novel 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    The plot of Indefensible is complex and engaging, as is its main character, Nick Davis. Haunted by past traumas, Nick is passionate and protective, with a tendency to over-react. Nick's impulsiveness is at times ill-advised (as when he involves his daughter in a murder investigation) and at times inspired. Overall, he's refreshingly authentic. The minor characters in this novel are also memorable and multi-dimensional. Intelligent, perceptive writing adds depth and texture to a compelling plot. Mysteries within mysteries, expertly woven, with entirely unexpected results.