STEVE MARTINI – Undue Influence. Paul Madriani #3. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, hardcover, 1994. Jove, paperback, 1995. TV Movie: CBS, 1996, with Brian Dennehy as Paul Madriani.

   Martini is one of the biggies now, if not quite as hot as Grisham and Turow, at least in the same league. He’s a lawyer himself, and has been a defense attorney in both civil and criminal cases. Though this billed as a psychological thriller, it’s not that — it’s a courtroom/Big Lawyer book, which I like/don’t like.

   Paul Madriani promised his dead wife that he would watch out for her younger sister, and he’s going to get a chance very soon. He’s watching her fight a particularly nasty child custody battle with her politician ex-husband when a bad situation gets worse. Her ex’s new wife is found murdered, and she and Paul’s sister-in-law have had bitter and public battles.

   Then hard evidence is found linking her with the killing, and she is charged. Paul has no choice but to represent her, though she is uncooperative, and the case against her strong. Things are, of course, not what they seem, but what are they really? Better, or worse?

   There are two or three action scenes in this 450-pager that allow a semi-accurate use of the word “thriller,” I guess, but basically it’s a courtroom novel and a good one. Martini knows how to maintain suspense and interest, and if most of the characterizations tend toward the surface and/or one-dimensional, they’re still more than adequate to the story.

   It’s written to be a best-seller, but of its kind and with all that implies, it’s a decent book. It almost got a full two [stars] but a final plot twist and burst of violence that I thought unnecessary brought it down. He should have left well enough alone, dammit.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #15, September 1994.

Bibliographic Note:   Through 2017 there are now 15 novels and one novella in the Paul Madriani series.