Sandra Nichols Found Dead

Sandra Nichols Found Dead

by George V. Higgins, Ian Esmo
     
 

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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

Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1972), Higgins reinvented the language of the mystery novel with artfully natural dialogue that cried out for reading aloud. Recently (in Defending Billy Ryan), Jerry Kennedy, Boston's slick but compassionate criminal defense lawyer, and his friends have tended to wax somewhat long-winded, though with the charm of a old friends. Here, Kennedy has been appointed by a former classmate, now a judge, to try a civil wrongful death suit. He is working for the three children of Sandra Nichols to prove what the police couldn't-that her most recent husband, a rich drunk named Peter Wade, hired someone to kill her. Kennedy and his cronies talk endlessly, about everything from photography to old cases and clients. But each time Higgins reaches the point of conversation overload, he hooks back into the action with a forward-moving insight, clue or plot twist. Readers are urged to stick through the chapters full of conversations about previous conversations, reporting on old meetings and hearings, that set the scene for the typically clever solution that Kennedy engineers. (May)
Library Journal
Much-respected criminal defense attorney Jerry Kennedy is coerced into becoming the legal guardian of the three surviving children of Sandra Nichols, the murdered wife of the wealthy, unscrupulous Peter Wade. Kennedy has been living the life of a recluse, allowing nothing to touch him since his divorce. Now, on behalf of the children, he goes after Wade, who may have had his wife killed for the sake of convenience. As lawyers go, Kennedy is one smart mensch. He cleverly manages to tie all the facts of the case into a neat little legal bundle that Wade cannot undo. Higgins (Swan Boats at Four, LJ 7/95) is a grandmaster of the written word. Through Kennedy's running dialog with those around him, he creates an intimacy between the reader and his characters and offers great insight into the way an attorney works for a client. This nugget of legal machination should be purchased by all public libraries.-Jo Ann Vicarel, Cleveland Heights-University Heights P.L., Ohio Hill, David. Sacred Dust.
Kirkus Reviews
What would be an ordinary case for any other lawyer—the murder of thrice- (or maybe only twice-) married Sandra Nichols—emerges at the far side of Higgins's looking glass in dazzlingly kaleidoscopic slabs of dialogue.

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 somebody—probably 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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786110100
Publisher:
Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Publication date:
09/28/1996
Series:
Jerry Kennedy Series
Edition description:
Unabridged, 7 Cassettes
Pages:
30
Product dimensions:
6.70(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.32(d)

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