Offer of Proof
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Offer of Proof

4.1 9
by Robert Heilbrun

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A riveting thriller, the debut novel of a high–profile Manhattan public defender with a gift for writing about the law in ways that are vastly entertaining, witty, sardonic and wise.

A beautiful young businesswoman is murdered on the streets of New York after shopping for art in Chelsea, and in her final words to the police, she identifies her assailant. Or


A riveting thriller, the debut novel of a high–profile Manhattan public defender with a gift for writing about the law in ways that are vastly entertaining, witty, sardonic and wise.

A beautiful young businesswoman is murdered on the streets of New York after shopping for art in Chelsea, and in her final words to the police, she identifies her assailant. Or does she?

Arch Gold, dedicated public defender, gets the biggest case of his life when he's assigned to represent the accused killer, Damon Tucker, a young black kid from Harlem. Damon claims he's innocent, and Gold puts his reputation on the line to save his client and find the real killer.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Unsolicited advice for lawyers who want to try their hand at a legal mystery: keep it simple and don't show off. Robert Heilbrun...gets it right in his first courtroom thriller, Offer of Proof. The drastic measures that Gold takes to restore the balance of justice give the story its visceral kick; but there's more blood-boiling excitement in following the trial procedures...and discovering just how arbitrary the law can be.—Marilyn Stasio
Publishers Weekly
It's not surprising that Yale-educated, New York-based, legal-aid lawyer/author Heilbrun gets the details right in this thriller featuring Ivy League educated, New York legal-aid public defender Arch Gold. What's refreshing in a field crowded with John Grisham imitators is that Heilbrun also turns in an intriguing, fast-paced, well-written courtroom mystery with an original lead character. Ten years ago, Arch Gold gave up his job as a high-powered business attorney (and also gave up his high-powered business attorney wife) to settle into the life of a poorly paid, hard-working, sometimes lonely but professionally satisfied public defender. When he draws the media-hot case of Damon Tucker, a kid from Harlem accused of murdering beautiful businesswoman Charlotte King, he finds himself defending not only a client he thinks is innocent, but also arguing the first death penalty case in New York in 50 years. Arch, at Damon's insistence, looks into the dead woman's background to see if her murder might be more than the simple mugging-gone-bad that prosecutors and the police claim. Arch finds that Charlotte was sleeping with her boss, James L. Yates, head of Yates Associates, the largest PI firm in the world. Remembering his bookie father's words of advice, "sometimes you have to break the rules to do the right thing," he commits a couple of felonies to get the goods on sleazebag Yates. When all else fails, Arch rallies an oddball contingent of former clients-a stripper, a stick-up man and a bookie-to ensure that justice prevails, leaving readers satisfied and eager for another outing. Agent, Amy Rennert. (Oct.) Forecast: It's a crowded genre, but if the publisher can get the word out, this will do well. Of note: Heilbrun is the son of feminist scholar and author Carolyn Heilbrun, who writes mysteries under the name Amanda Cross. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-With the opening paragraph, court-appointed attorney Arch Gold draws readers quickly and inexorably into the story of a young black man taken into custody in Manhattan. Damon Tucker is an 18-year-old City College student and video-store clerk charged with the murder of a white woman in what appears to be a street robbery gone bad. It's clear to readers that the teen is innocent, but he is his own worst enemy, unable to control his anger and unwilling to follow his attorney's advice. His case becomes a death penalty cause celebre and, as it wends its way through the courts, Heilbrun sheds light at each turn. Legal precedents, city politics, and ethical issues, as well as the personalities and ambitions of police, jurors, attorneys, and judges, all combine to determine Damon's fate. Gold, who is the son of a bookie and now a "legit" public defender, stands with one foot on each side of the law; when he feels it's necessary, he can step over it. Here, the novel takes on the aspect of a more conventional mystery, as Gold fights to expose the real killer. He has the help of a number of colorful characters, including grateful ex-clients and an elderly friend of his father. This well-written tale is fast moving, compelling, and thought-provoking, and readers will be left hoping that the noir-voiced Arch Gold will return to relate more of his cases in future novels.-Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The pseudonymous Amanda Cross's son, a New York public defender, tosses his hat into the ring with a legal thriller about-what else?-a New York public defender. Generally speaking, admits Arch Gold, "I really don't care whether my clients are guilty or innocent"; he doesn't pick them any more than they pick him. But if he did pick, he'd certainly avoid Damon Tucker, the hulking black college kid accused of mugging and killing Charlotte King, whose career with high-profile p.i. firm Yates Associates was cut short when she went art-shopping around the corner from the Chelsea video store where Damon worked. The cops have Damon's prints on a videotape in Charlotte's purse and her prints on three $10 bills in his pocket; the defense has Damon's furious insistence that Charlotte's deathbed ID didn't ID him. Except for a deft, unexpected development that suddenly puts the death penalty on the table, the case unfolds pretty much as you'd expect in court and out, with Arch convinced, but unable to prove, that Charlotte was killed by the untouchable boss she was touching in all the right places. In fact, Arch's fixation on scary James L. Yates would make him an obvious candidate for Charlotte's psychiatrist if Dr. Stern hadn't checked out soon after his client courtesy of another suspicious mugging. What's best here is Arch himself, proud of his courtroom technique but candid about the limitations that cause the defense, which initially looks promising, to blow up in his face. And although Arch's cowboy techniques outside the courtroom-breaking and entering, carrying a concealed firearm, the whole nine yards-are both less legal and less believable, he at least has the grace not to pretend he doesstuff like this all the time and it's perfectly all right. An appealingly fallible hero who deserves the sequel an epilogue promises. Agent: Amy Rennert

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HarperCollins Publishers
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4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.96(d)

Read an Excerpt

Offer of Proof
A Novel

Chapter One

Say your life breaks down, or your luck goes bad, and you get arrested, busted, taken into custody for some damn thing here in Manhattan. You'll drop out of sight, just disappear. You'll be going through the system, from the precinct where they print you and take what they call your "pedigree" information -- which sounds like you were bred in captivity and are up for sale, but which actually just refers to your name, address, and date of birth -- then on to central booking, where they fax your prints to Albany to see if you have a criminal record, and, finally, to court.

When you do pop up in a jail behind the arraignment court after a day or two of waiting around in filthy grimy cells with tiled walls like old bathrooms, sharing a few square feet with a lot of other desperate-looking people, you might be pleased to find that your court-appointed attorney is me, Arch Gold, working the night shift. You won't ask yourself why a young man who could have worked at a big corporate firm, making in a month what he makes in a year as a public defender, does this dirty work. You won't ask yourself, doesn't he have anything better to do on a Saturday night? You'll just be very happy to see me, because my friendly face, and my apparent desire to help you, whatever your alleged sins, will make you feel better, will give you hope.

I grabbed the top file off the pile of cases the court clerk had just thrown into the wire basket bolted to defense counsel's table. When I first started as a public defender, I used to look through the files and select the ones that appealed to me, secretly hoping my shift might run out before I got to a particularly nasty case that I'd left at the bottom of the basket. Not anymore. After ten years of this work, I just take the cases in the order they appear. Picking and choosing isn't part of my job description.

I looked at the name on the first file -- "Kathy Dupont."

When you get arrested, your lawyer is given three pieces of paper with which to defend you in front of the judge at your arraignment: the criminal complaint, which purports to set forth exactly what laws you've broken and exactly how, all in stilted legalese; your rap sheet, based on your fingerprints, which lets everyone know if you've got a criminal record, no matter what name you happen to claim for yourself this time around; and, last, a joke -- the CJA sheet. This is a form filled out by a career pencil pusher from something called the Criminal Justice Agency, who interviews you, and to whom you're expected to give a home address, your supposed occupation or lack thereof, and your supposed contact person, so the court can decide if you have sufficient "community ties" to maybe risk releasing you or setting a bail you could make.

I checked out Kathy Dupont's rap sheet. Twenty-eight years old. Second arrest. She had an open case for assault, just like this new one. The complaint here said she'd stabbed a fellow by the name of James Johnson, on Fifty-second Street and Ninth Avenue, at 4:45 in the morning. The CJA sheet said she was a dancer. Probably not with the New York City Ballet.

Kathy Dupont's file was a little curious, since the contact person listed on the CJA sheet was the very same James Johnson whom the complaint said she'd stabbed in the ass. Sounded like a complex relationship.

I walked back to the pens, to the women's interview cage, and called out her name. Through the steel bars in the door at the back I could see into the women's pen. You've probably never been in jail even for a day or two, locked up behind a courtroom in a twenty-foot-square cell. Right now approximately twenty-five women were packed into the pen, some sitting on benches, some passed out on the floor or curled up in the fetal position, all waiting to see the judge. The women were mostly hookers, shoplifters, and crackheads. These were mixed in with the occasional woman arrested for assault, usually in self-defense against some man who wanted something he couldn't have. The threat of violence didn't hang in the air here, as it did in the men's pen.

"Kathy Dupont," I yelled out. One of the sleeping figures on the floor came to life. She was wearing a short skirt over a tight, low-cut black leotard, stockings, and purple knitted leggings. Her boots were next to her on the floor. She tiptoed around various sleeping bodies on her perfect little stocking feet and slid into the interview booth.

She was a knockout -- big, dark, hurt-looking eyes, high cheekbones, long brown hair, and a body that appeared to have everything just where it was supposed to be.

"Aren't you sweet."

She had a real Southern drawl. I passed her a cigarette through the bars. I don't smoke, but I've found that a cigarette often eases the difficult discussions that are inevitably central to my job. For some reason, people who get arrested tend to smoke way more than the general population. There were probably a million reasons why, none of them good. She put the cigarette between her lips and leaned forward, her big eyes checking me out as I lit it for her through the bars.

"You my lawyer, cutie?"

She leaned back and took a long drag.

"Yes, I'm your lawyer. My name's Arch Gold. Who's James Johnson?"

"An asshole that used to be my boyfriend."

Offer of Proof
A Novel
. Copyright © by Robert Heilbrun. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Robert Heilbrun has been an attorney since 1985. He lives with his family in New York City, where he is a staff attorney with The Legal Aid Society.

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Offer of Proof 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pretty decent. Nothing special though.
nancyg1NG More than 1 year ago
This book was well worth the $.99 I paid to read it.  Characters were easy to follow.  The only reason I gave it four stars instead of five was  because I felt the author's descriptions in some scenes as slightly lengthy - not as much as I have seen in some books, though - and even at that, the book still moved along nicely.  There is some swearing in this book, but kept at what I would consider mild (there are some "f" words in there, but not to the point where the language minimized  the story, though, so if this offends you to the point where you cannot stand even mild usage of the word, you may not want to read this book. The ending was good.  There are 271 pages in this Nook book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This guy can write. I wish he had more books for Nook. I'd buy them all.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book teaches the reader a lesson that should never be forgotten. There are people out there who get charged for a crime that they did not commit. Damon Tucker and his attorny Arch Gold are some pretty interesting characters....this is a must read...if you haven't read it, be sure to check it out from your local library. Better yet, go out and buy it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
New York legal-aid public defender Arch Gold is assigned the Damon Tucker murder trial. Damon is a poor kid from Harlem accused of killing businesswoman Charlotte King during a mugging incident. Besides the obvious class warfare angle, the media frenzy focuses on the first New York death penalty case since the early 1960s when the state tested the impact of electricity on Wood.

Arch believes that his client is innocent and thanks to Damon's persistence, he checks into the background of the victim to see if anyone had a motive. Arch quickly learns that Charlotte had an affair with her employer, James L. Yates of Yates Associates. Feeling he has found the real culprit, Arch tries illegally breaking and entering before turning to former clients in a desperate attempt to free Damon and place Yates on trial.

OFFER OF PROOF is sure to be considered by legal thriller fans as one of the top five sub-genre novels of the year. The story line is action packed and loaded with a strong often eccentric cast of characters. Arch is a great protagonist willing to cross the legal line to insure justice occurs. This book offers anecdotal proof that Robert Heilbrun is on his way to the sub-genre supreme court of authors.

Harriet Klausner