Sandra Nichols Found Deadby George V. Higgins, Ian Esmo
While blithely trespassing in a Massachusetts wetland, a plant thief stumbles across a corpse: Sandra Nichols, who had been missing for months, was found bludgeoned to death. Time had provided the suspects - especially Peter Wade, Sandra's super-rich ex - with easy alibis. Murder One? The D.A. knows better: prosecutors do not seek unwinnable cases. Wrongful Death - a… See more details below
While blithely trespassing in a Massachusetts wetland, a plant thief stumbles across a corpse: Sandra Nichols, who had been missing for months, was found bludgeoned to death. Time had provided the suspects - especially Peter Wade, Sandra's super-rich ex - with easy alibis. Murder One? The D.A. knows better: prosecutors do not seek unwinnable cases. Wrongful Death - a civil action that requires proof of motive, means, access to a weapon, and only 51 percent certainty - is the route unflappable Judge Henry Lawler pursues. And the judge has his reasons for appointing classmate Jerry Kennedy to try what becomes Estate of Sandra Nichols v. Peter Wade. Kennedy is known for defending scoundrels accused of murder, armed robbery, MV manslaughter, and tax evasion. So, as Jerry Kennedy himself asks, "Why did I take the mixed breed Wade-Nichols case, the hardest case I never tried? Which looked like it was civil but was really criminal? And, when you came right down to it, de facto made me into what I'd never been before in my whole life, a ... prosecutor?" The fun begins when Jerry starts poking around, talking to the right people (including Sandra's orphaned kids), and reviewing the files gathered by Detective Royce Whitlock. Once he becomes aware of a missing clue, things begin to fall in place, and savvy readers will recognize that they're in the hands of a master.
Judge Henry Lawler is convinced that Sandra, whose body was found months after she disappeared, was murdered by her latest ex, the wealthy, idle Peter Wade. And he tells his old classmate Jerry Kennedy, whom he wants to recruit, that it won't be easy to nail him: Chances are that Peter, who's never raised a finger in his life, didn't break his pattern this time, but hired somebodyprobably his old bud Brian Ross, a "terminal marine" whose own liaison with Sandra is memorialized in a "Semper Fi" tattoo she's wearing in a very private place. With no obvious date for the murder (Peter's prissy lawyer is objecting even to the word murder) and no likely way to place Peter at the scene, a lesser legal avenger would be hamstrung. But Kennedy, that well-known criminal attorney (Penance for Jerry Kennedy, 1985, etc.) who doesn't do civil, has agreed to take the case as a wrongful-death suit on behalf of Sandra's three children. So he doesn't have to prove Peter's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; all he has to do is prove a 51% likelihood of guilt. Tossing off dozens of Higgins's trademark anecdotes along the way about Sandra's abusive father, her spouses (including one casual bigamist), and everyone else who ever knew her, Kennedy eventually confronts his clients: Lucy, who likes to cut herself with a razor (but treats each cut with antiseptic); demurely bulimic Maggie; and Jeffrey, who gets followed from place to place by suspicious fires. The upshot is sad, sordid, unsurprising, and deeply satisfying.
Like Swan Boats at Four (1995), this fabulously shaggy narrative may remind bemused newcomers of Achilles endlessly pursuing the tortoise. Fans will know exactly what to expect, and treasure it accordingly.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >