Martha "Marty" Nickerson is a lawyer who truly loves her job. As an assistant D.A. for Massachusetts's Barnstable County, which includes all the small towns on Cape Cod, she speaks for the victims of crime and their families, and sees the system as a means for doing right.
The case of Manuel Rodriguez is a prime example. Rodriguez is accused of brutally murdering a college student, a kind young man who had a bright future. Marty has worked hard on this case; as the mother of a teenage son, she identifies with the murdered boy's grieving parents. Her case against Rodriguez is so solid that even public defender Harry Madigan -- the champion of the Cape's underdogs -- expects a conviction. And, on Memorial Day, exactly a year after the crime, the verdict comes in: guilty as charged. Justice prevails.
Then, with Rodriguez behind bars, another body turns up in disturbingly similar circumstances. Did Marty and her colleagues target the wrong man? Her supervisor -- Geraldine Schilling, who aspires to be the county's first female D.A. -- refuses to reopen such a high-profile case. Why should she? The prosecutors played by the rules and won big. But Marty fears that the real killer will strike again.
With her career on the line and lives at stake, Marty must rely on her own moral compass, legal savvy, and gut instinct as she matches wits with a twisted killer. The system itself is on trial as Marty tries to serve Justice, not merely the Law.
Only an author with years of courtroom experience could add such riveting authenticity to a novel that asks important questions and provides surprising answers. Rose Connors's Absolute Certainty introduces a new crime-writing star.
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Wednesday, May 26
"You nailed him, Martha."
I know it's Geraldine Schilling without looking up. She's the only one in the office -- or anywhere else for that matter -- who calls me Martha. Geraldine is the First Assistant District Attorney for Barnstable County, a county that includes all the towns on Cape Cod. She intends to be Barnstable County's next District Attorney, a position no woman has ever held.
"You nailed him. Now let's go in there and finish it."
"I'm ready, Geraldine."
I snap my briefcase shut and gesture for Geraldine to take the only empty seat in my cramped office. "But Judge Carroll released the jurors for lunch. He'll call for closing arguments when they get back."
Geraldine doesn't sit down. She never does. She leans against my old wooden file cabinet instead, pressing a spiked heel against the bottom drawer. She draws hard on her cigarette and rolls her pale green eyes to the ceiling. "Lunch? Who the hell eats lunch?"
There is a widely held belief in our office that Geraldine doesn't eat -- ever. All of us have seen her attend professional luncheons and political dinners, but no one has seen her swallow a morsel of food. Caffeine and nicotine seem to keep her going. She weighs 110 pounds wearing her neatly tailored suit.
Kevin Kydd appears in my doorway, grinning as usual. "I do. I eat lunch. Where are we going, ladies?"
He always makes me laugh. But Geraldine doesn't crack a smile. She shakes her long blond bangs and blows a steady stream of smoke toward the doorway. "Lunch with you, Kydd? I'd sooner starve."
His grin expands. "Ah, Gerry, you're a peach."
Kevin Kydd arrived in our office one year ago, a young Southern gentleman fresh out of Emory Law School in Atlanta, Georgia. He is tall and lanky, with slightly stooped shoulders and a grin that doesn't quit. Geraldine christened him "the Kydd" immediately upon his arrival and the rest of us adopted it. He, in turn, calls her "Gerry," always with the grin. We marvel that he still has a job.
The Kydd ambles in and settles in the chair Geraldine rejected. "How about you, Marty? My treat."
"Thanks, Kydd, but I'll have to pass. I'm expecting Judge Carroll's clerk to call any time now. We're closing Rodriguez this afternoon."
"Mind if I watch?"
The Kydd's question is intended more for Geraldine than for me, but I answer him quickly. "Not a bit."
I remember my early days in this office, handling the traffic offenses and bounced checks that the Kydd is stuck with now, waiting for an opportunity to prosecute a "real" crime. Whenever I could, I watched closing arguments in the more serious cases. I watched Geraldine in action in a number of trials. She doesn't try cases anymore, but she was excellent in her day.
The old black phone on my desk doesn't finish its first ring before I grab it. "Marty Nickerson."
It's Wanda Morgan, Judge Carroll's courtroom clerk. The jury is back; the judge is calling for summations.
I head for the door. The Kydd reaches it before I do, but he pauses to look back at Geraldine, to verify that he has her permission. She blows a smoke ring at him.
"Go ahead," she says. "Maybe you'll learn something."
Copyright © 2002 by Rose Connors