Bantam, Feb 2003, 22.95, 319 pp.
In Connecticut, defense attorney John O'Rourke struggles with his moral dilemma of defending some of society's worst monsters to insure they have a fair trail and the requirements of a single dad raising two youngsters by himself. The townsfolk treat John like a pariah especially with his current case, defending Greg Merrill, the Breakwater Killer. The latest incident is a brick tossed threw his kitchen window that two cops blithely write it off as if John was the criminal.
Immediately following the brick incident, Kate Harris arrives at the O'Rourke residence. She wants John to ascertain whether his infamous client killed her sister, who vanished without the body recovered. As Kate helps the O'Rourkes heal from the loss of their mother, she falls in love with the trio. The kids welcome her into their lives, but John is reluctant as he feels guilt over his spouse's cheating while he overly worked on defending the dregs.
THE SECRET HOUR is a powerful legal romantic thriller that is at its best when John, living up to the Dershowitz credo that a “good lawyer should want to take the hardest cases, the most unpopular defendants”, must defend himself and his children from his neighbors. Readers will feel his strength from the start when John thinks back on an incident at an ice cream parlor with his young daughter involving the condemnation by a senior citizen. The story line is fast-paced yet obvious, but romantic suspense fans and legal thriller buffs will want to read this close look at the toll of defending death row convicts on the personal lives of an attorney and his family.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner