Just Revenge

Just Revenge

3.7 9
by Alan M. Dershowitz
     
 

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One of the foremost courtroom lawyers of his generation. Alan M. Dershowitz takes controversial stands based on the principle of equal justice for all. Along the way, he has authored the #1 New York Times bestseller Chutzpah; the bestselling account of the Claus von Bulow case Reversal of Fortune; and the bestselling courtroom drama The Advocate's Devil. Now… See more details below

Overview

One of the foremost courtroom lawyers of his generation. Alan M. Dershowitz takes controversial stands based on the principle of equal justice for all. Along the way, he has authored the #1 New York Times bestseller Chutzpah; the bestselling account of the Claus von Bulow case Reversal of Fortune; and the bestselling courtroom drama The Advocate's Devil. Now Dershowitz has written a novel that is at once personal, passionate, and towering: an explosive legal thriller that pits Dershowitz's literary alter ego, attorney Abe Ringel, against the worst crime of the twentieth century -- the Holocaust.

What if you witnessed the most abominable deeds that human beings can inflict upon each other? What if you came face-to-face with the very man who had slaughtered your family before your eyes? That is the question confronted by a celebrated professor named Max Menuchen. Max has found the man who had killed his entire family in cold blood more than a half century before. Max, who has never before broken a law, cannot turn down his chance for revenge.

In 1943 Marcellus Prandus was a Lithuanian militia captain who carried out the blood-thirsty orders of his Nazi commanders during World War II. Today he is an old man living outside Boston. For Max, who has discovered Prandus's identity by chance, killing him is not enough, because Prandus is already dying of cancer. How can Max make Prandus suffer exactly as Max himself did? Can Max bring himself to assassinate Prandus's children and grandchildren and make the old man watch his family die, as Max himself was forced to do?

By the time defense attorney Abe Ringel enters the case, Max has carried out an astounding act of revenge, and America'sgreat Holocaust trial has begun: an explosive legal and moral struggle to find the light of justice within the darkness of human evil. With Max facing almost certain conviction, Ringel desperately tries to prove his actions we

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Who determines justice? In this thought-provoking and ambitious novel, lawyer and Harvard professor Dershowitz creates a decide-for-yourself scenario that is both chilling and life affirming. Elderly scholar Max Menuchen is a Holocaust survivor who endures haunting memories of the 1942 massacre of his infant son, pregnant wife and extended family in Vilna, Lithuania. His grandfather's last cry for revenge echoes constantly in his mind, even after he emigrates to America and builds a successful career. Finally, after a lifetime of survivor guilt, a chance encounter in Cambridge, Mass., leads him to the Nazi killer of his family, Marcelus Prandus, who lives nearby, surrounded by his children and grandchildren, his past never revealed to his American-born family. To prosecute him for war crimes appears to be futile--Prandus is terminally ill and would die before any trial came to pass. Overcome with frustration and a burning need to avenge his family's deaths, Max--an otherwise gentle, kindly academic--conceives a plan to punish Prandus that is both shocking and brilliant. Ultimately, a psychologically devastated Prandus takes his own life. Is Max responsible for his death? Were his actions morally acceptable? And of immediate relevance, were they legal? Defense lawyer Abe Ringel--returning from Dershowitz's previous novel The Advocate's Devil--takes on his old friend Max's case and seeks to prove that retribution and justice are not irreconcilable. Full of clever twists, Dershowitz's latest endeavor is intricately plotted, though the dialogue is on the stiff side and frequently more utilitarian than conversational. Subtlety is not Dershowitz's strong suit, nor is literary finesse, but he makes up for these shortcomings with the dramatic and tragic events that frame the plot, and the intensity of his moral argument. He dedicates the novel to the members of his family who were killed by the Nazis and their collaborators. Agent, Helen Rees. 5-city author tour. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A clunky but compelling novel that dramatizes the question of whether a Holocaust survivor is entitled to revenge 50 years after the war. The law utterly failed Max Menuchen back in 1942, when Captain Marcellus Prandus and his Gestapo unit snatched Max's family from their Passover Seder, herded them into a nearby Vilna forest, where they were forced to dig their own graves, and methodically executed them all, beginning with the youngest. Max survived only by playing dead. Now a respected professor of biblical studies at Harvard Divinity School, he prepares to rewrite his illustrious obituary as soon as he sees Marcellus's son Paul, who unwittingly tells him his father is still alive. The case against Marcellus is so strong that it looks at first as if American law will succeed where Lithuanian law failed. But Marcellus is dying of cancer, and when Max realizes that legal tactics will surely delay his incarceration and deportation until after his death, Max determines to become his own law. Killing Marcellus would be too easy; killing his innocent grandson Marc, eight, seems at once insufficient, unjust, and impossible; even tossing a bomb into a family birthday party will not leave Marcellus feeling Max's agony and despair. Then Max's protégée Danielle Grant, searching Jewish law for moral precedents, comes up with a diabolically clever "Maimonidean solution" that will exact proportional revenge—though it will land both Max and Danielle in court, where Max will be defended by his old friend Abe Ringel (The Advocate's Devil, not reviewed). Abe's job—to make Max's revenge seem just to a jury of law-abiding citizens—will tax him, his client, and the leadwitnesses to to the limit. Though Dershowitz (The Vanishing American Jew, 1997, etc.) is no threat to Aeschylus as a moralist or Scott Turow as a stylist, his story will leave readers pondering the morality of revenge right down to the final melodramatic twist.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780759523302
Publisher:
Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
09/01/2000
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
187,500
File size:
1 MB

Read an Excerpt



Chapter One


Cambridge, Massachusetts

Seven Months Earlier: October 1998


"It's great having you home from school," Abe Ringel said, hugging his twenty-two-year-old daughter, Emma. "But you do look tired."

"You've gotten a few more gray hairs yourself," the petite law student observed as she stroked her father's unruly coif. Abe was quickly approaching the midcentury mark and was sensitive about the darkening beneath his eyes and the lightening above his forehead. He had always appeared youthful, even through his early forties, but the past few years had begun to take their toll on his rugged good looks.

He held his daughter for an extra moment as he whispered, "I've really missed you, sweetie."

"C'mon. It's only been a month, and Yale is only two and a half hours away from Harvard by car—though it's light-years ahead in the way it teaches law." Emma couldn't resist the gibe at one of Harvard Law School's most famous and loyal local alumni.

"No way I'm getting into an argument with a first-year law student—especially a Yalie. You kids argue in your sleep." Abe smiled. "Tell me all about your classes. Did you get to the case about the shipwrecked sailors who ate the cabin boy? That was the first case we studied in criminal law. I'll never forget it," Abe mused nostalgically.

"We don't study that stuff at Yale, Daddy," Emma retorted. "It's Jurassic. When's the last time a sailor ate a cabin boy?"

"That's not the point, Emma. It's the principle of the case."

"Yeah, yeah. We learn all that in legal history. We're even reading about one of your ancient cases. Boring!"

"Really? Which one?"

"No, Daddy, not really. God, you're so not with it. It was a joke. But we did study the Dred Scott decision about slavery."

"And you think I represented the slave owner?"

"You would have, wouldn't you?"

"Only if he were charged with a crime," Abe replied, smiling. "Just kidding. I remember our deal. C'mon, let's stop talking about law school. Tell me about you. Did you meet any nice boys?"

"I don't meet boys. I meet men," Emma teased, arching her back in a provocative pose.

"Enough," Abe groaned, turning away.

"And, yes," Emma continued, ignoring her father's discomfort, "the class is full of nice men—and nice women, too."

"So, so. Tell me everything."

"No way. I'm over the age of consent, and the law says I don't have to tell you anything."

As Emma said these words, Abe's wife, Rendi, jogged in puffing and sweating. "Is your dad being nosy again?"

"What else is new?" Emma said, smiling as she got up to hug Rendi. "Whee, you stink. It must have been a good workout. I've missed you. Now you I want to tell about my sex—whoops, my social life. 'Cause I know you won't tell my dad."

"I'd go to jail first. Like Susan McDougal. We can gossip later. I've missed you, Emma. I love your new do."

"Daddy didn't even notice."

"So what else is new? Your father wouldn't notice if I shaved my head," Rendi said, playing with the auburn hair that cascaded to her shoulders and framed the bronze complexion and striking features of her face. A Sephardic Jew who was raised on a kibbutz in Israel and who had spent several years in the Mossad, Rendi was a tower of strength, both physical and psychological.

"Maybe I'll shave my head. We'll see if Daddy notices. He didn't notice my nose ring," Emma said, turning her face away from Abe.

"I'm not falling for that," Abe said, sneaking a peek at Emma's profile.

Abe and Rendi had gotten married shortly after the second Joe Campbell trial. The Campbell case had changed everything in Abe's life. He had successfully defended the star basketball player from rape charges, despite his growing suspicion that Campbell had been guilty of raping Jennifer Dowling. Then Campbell had tried to rape Emma on her eighteenth birthday and nearly killed her. It took Emma the better part of a year to forgive her father and to begin to put her life back together. Although there were still tensions in the father-daughter relationship, the crisis had drawn Abe closer to Rendi, who had been his longtime lover and investigator and who was helping Emma work through her feelings toward her father. The marriage had changed very little in Abe's and Rendi's lives, except that they now lived together in Abe's large, modern Cambridge house. They still fought like children about nearly every legal issue on which they worked. But they loved each other passionately, and they both loved Emma.

Emma sometimes sounded more like a teenager than a twenty-two-year-old law student when she teased her father. Like a clock whose hands stopped at the moment of an explosion, their relationship had somehow gotten stuck at the time of her near death experience. Emma had never directly confronted her conflicting feelings about her father's role in the Campbell horror. In the meantime, she had maintained a psychological distance from her father through her adolescent teasing.

"What brings you home so soon in the school term?" asked Abe's wife.

"So soon?" Abe thundered. "It's been a month."

"No, really, is everything okay?"

"It's great. I love Yale. The teachers are so cool, especially the women. They're the best. My crim law prof was a Supreme Court law clerk for Justice Breyer. And then she worked as a rape prosecutor. I told her about my case."

"Why did you have to tell her that?" Abe asked with a look of concern.

"I didn't have to tell her. I wanted to," Emma said assertively, turning her head to face her father. "She announced at the beginning of the first class that if anyone had any life experiences that were relevant to the class, we should drop her a note. One guy in the class had been a cop for five years. A woman had been in jail for a month after she refused to testify against her boyfriend in a marijuana case. And I nearly got raped. It's nothing to be ashamed of, Daddy."

"I know that, but it brings back some very bad memories, and it's nobody's business."

"It's my business, and I'm dealing with it the best I know how—by talking about it. What else can I do? I'd love to cut off his—"

"Enough, Emma. You don't have to get graphic. I get the picture, and I don't like it. Taking revenge wouldn't make you feel any better."

"How do you know?" Emma said, suddenly getting testy. "You get guilty criminals off scot-free for a living! I should think you would want to cut it off for me, as my father."

"Believe me," Abe said emphatically, "I know how strong the passion for revenge can be. I see it in the faces of the victims—and in the hate mail I get from them. It destroys them if they don't let go of it. You don't want to end up like one of those bitter people you see on TV all the time, screaming for the execution of the creep who murdered their daughter."

"You don't know how it feels to be violated and not get even. Cutting up Joe Campbell would do me a lot of good."

"Forget about it. It's illegal, and I don't want to have to defend my own daughter."

"It's only a fantasy," Emma said with a weary smile. "I'm not the acting-on-it type. I'm the talking-about-it type. That's why I told my professor about our deal."

"What exactly did you tell her?"

"I told her how you had represented Campbell and that you had gotten him off, even though you knew he did it."

"Suspected! I didn't know. I suspected. Remember, he denied it."

"Yeah. I understand the drill. I just don't agree with it. You knew he was guilty. And you still got him off. And then . . ."

"I know what happened then," Abe said despondently, hanging his head. "You don't have to remind me. I still have nightmares."

"So do I," Emma shot back, her voice rising both in pitch and volume. "That's why I have to talk about it—and do something about it."

"What do you mean, do something?" Abe asked in a worried voice.

Emma rolled her eyes. "No. Nothing stupid. I'm doing a paper for my crim class. My project is to demonstrate that good lawyers shouldn't represent bad people."

"But the system—"

"It was the system that made you get that bastard off. Don't you see how not right the system is?"

"Can we argue about this some other time? I just want to talk about you, not the system."

"We are talking about me. I was telling you what I told Professor Stith. It's important to me."

"I'm sorry. Please go on. I want to hear."

"I said that as a result of my case you had decided never again to defend somebody who you knew was guilty."

"I hope you made it clear that I haven't changed my principles. I still believe—"

"I know what you believe. I told her I had to be satisfied with small victories when I deal with the Attila the Hun of the defense bar."

"I'm not that out of touch. Most defense lawyers—"

"I don't care about most defense lawyers," Emma said, doing her best imitation of Abe in his lecture mode. "I only care about you. You're my special mission. By the time I graduate from law school, I'm gonna convert you."

"You've already converted me, sweetie. You don't have to rub it in."

"I haven't converted you completely—yet. So far, all I got you to do is compromise your principles."

"Isn't it enough that you've made a hypocrite of me?"

"It's a start. Some dead white guy once said that hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue."

"I'm glad you're still quoting dead white males, sweetie."

"Almost everyone we study in law school is a DWM. I appreciate your hypocrisy. I won't be completely satisfied until I convince you that the principle of representing guilty people is wrong. I know you agreed to the deal because of what happened to me, and it is a bit patronizing."

"Give me a break here. After all, the root of 'patronize' is father. I'm entitled."

The scars left by the Campbell situation had caused Abe to reevaluate the kinds of cases he took. He was still a zealous—some would say ferocious—defense lawyer for his clients, but now he was more selective about which clients he chose to represent. "I hope you also told Professor Stith that I never turn down a capital case—regardless of the defendant's guilt," Abe added.

"Death is different," said Emma, quoting the exact words her father had said to her many times. "When the state wants to kill someone, it shouldn't be easy."

Beyond the occasional death penalty case, there was nearly always a family feud about which cases Abe should take. Before he would agree to take on a paying case, Abe would try to assure himself of the defendant's innocence. It was not always easy. He remembered how convinced he had been of Joe Campbell's innocence when he took that case. But now Abe was more conscious of his old affliction—"defense lawyer's blind spot." He was no longer as susceptible to DLBS. Now he could see the evidence more clearly, and when it pointed to guilt, he would refer the case to his former associate, Justin Aldrich, or to other defense lawyers.

"I've paid my dues—and more—to the notion that it is better for ten guilty to go free than for one innocent to be wrongly convicted. I've represented too many of the 'ten guilty' defendants," Abe acknowledged to Emma and Rendi. "Now I've earned the right to defend some of the innocent ones."

"I would never prosecute anyone I believed was innocent, so why shouldn't the same rule apply to defense lawyers?" Emma insisted.

"Because the innocent shouldn't be prosecuted. The guilty must be defended," Abe responded.

"But not by you, Dad."

"Look, you've convinced me. A good lawyer knows how to sit down when she's won. Don't argue anymore, or you'll talk me out of it."

"I'm getting great ammo from my profs."

"What can you expect from a bunch of former prosecutors?"

"Low blow. There are also a few recovering defense lawyers."

"Low blow yourself. Being a defense lawyer is not an illness."

"Well, at least it's not contagious. That I can promise you."

"Boy, you're good—and fast. But let's get back to you. How's your roommate . . . what's her name?"

"You know what her name is. You just don't like it. Angela Davis Bernstein. A genuine revolutionary."

"She'll end up working for Cravath, Swaine and Moore—like the rest of them."

"No way! Sue them, maybe. But work for them—never. And neither will I. I applied for an internship for the summer with Linda Fairstein, the chief sex crimes prosecutor in New York."

"After what you went through?" asked Abe, shocked.

"I'm a different person," Emma continued. "I learn from my mistakes."

"It wasn't your fault," Rendi insisted.

"Going out with that creep was my fault. What he tried to do to me wasn't. And anyway, nobody would dare try to rape a rape prosecutor."

"Don't even joke about that," Abe said.

"That's the way I deal with the pain, Daddy. And anyway, I'm serious. We'd cut his—"

"Enough already with your fantasies of surgery. Maybe you should have gone to medical school. My daughter the doctor. It certainly would have made Grandma Ringel happy."

"I can't stand blood."

"By the way, I know Linda Fairstein's husband. Good guy. A defense lawyer." "I bet he represents only innocent defendants."

"As I do, sweetie. When I can find one. They're not so easy to find. My business has gone down quite a bit since I agreed to your deal."

"It doesn't show. What's that?" Emma asked, pointing to a new painting on the crowded living room wall.

"It's a Soutine."

"It's ugly."

"Life's ugly. He painted it as he saw it."

"I like it, but I wouldn't want it in my bedroom."

"I haven't offered. What do you have hanging in your bedroom?"

"Some Keith Haring posters, your old Ben Shahn litho of Martin Luther King, and a Beatles poster."

"Talk about Jurassic. You're back in the seventies."

"I love the seventies."

"You were an infant in the seventies. What do you know about them?"

"Mom used to talk about them. She said the sixties really happened in the seventies. Then it all ended in the eighties."

Emma averted her face, trying to hide her tears. Her mother, Hannah, had died in an automobile accident in 1987, and nothing had ever been the same since. Rendi was a wonderful stepmother—even more, a friend—but no one could ever replace Hannah. Abe saw the tears and put his arm around Emma's small shoulders. He took out his handkerchief and wiped away the tears as they fell.

"It all ended in the eighties," he repeated. "And then there was a new beginning in the nineties."

Emma paused for a moment, then shrugged her way out from beneath Abe's arm. "Daddy, I've invited a friend for Shabbat dinner tomorrow night. I hope it's cool. He's a graduate student from Amsterdam, studying human rights."

"That's great. Max is coming, too."

"Perfect. Jacob will love Max. They're both so European. Can't wait for you to meet him. But don't make a fuss. I'll die if you scare him away."

"I'll be on my best behavior."

"You've got to do better than that," Emma said, pinching Abe's cheek.

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What People are saying about this

Aharon Appelfeld
A novel of juridical insights, great knowledge of Jewish history, and, as always, written with passion and strength. -Aharon Appelfeld
A.B. Yehoshua
[A novel of] virtuosity and excellent narrative style....The complexity and depth of the theoretical case provides an additional dimension. -A. B. Yehoshua
Stephen Jay Gould
The successful philosophical novel must be one of the rarest jewels of the entire genre. This book, centered on both the human and the biblical meaning of revenge-a primal feeling that we rarely acknowledge in our confusion and sense of shame-succeeds brilliantly in combining a riveting tale (the sine qua non of all novels) with a troubling theme of human nature that lies as deep as Genesis in our souls.
Richard North Patterson
Fascinating...a moral page-turner that provokes thought even as it touches the heart. In fiction as in the law, Alan Dershowitz is a national asset.
Eli Wiesel
In this brilliantly written and cleverly structured novel, Alan Dershowitz deals with a theme that is but rarely touched upon in Holocaust-inspired literature: Can there be vengeance now when there was none then?

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