Pocket Books, 2011, 512 pages
A stunning debut thriller in the best-selling tradition of Scott Turow and John Grisham!
Alex Miller is a criminal defense lawyer leading the life he always imagined. At thirty-five, he is the youngest partner at New York City's most prestigious law firm, with a beautiful wife and a perfect daughter. When Alex's father suddenly passes away, Alex is introduced to Michael Ohlig, a rich and powerful man who holds an almost mythical place in his family lore. But Alex is surprised when Ohlig admits that he's in serious legal trouble, accused of crimes involving hundreds of millions of dollars. Alex agrees to take on Ohlig's defense.
Through the course of two trials, secrets are revealed that force Alex to question whether any of the people in his life are who they appear to be. Most importantly, he must decide whether the identity he projects to the world is the man he truly is or even wants to be.
With its powerful voice, pause-resistant tension, and strong cast of characters, A Conflict of Interest will captivate listeners right up to its electrifying conclusion.
I've been reading lots of legal thrillers lately. Some people might find this thick novels often full of legal maneuverings and lawyer authors trying to explain to layman readers how trials work to be dry, but if done well, I find them interesting, in the same way I was able to wade through Moby Dick and its long chapters on cetaceaology. A Conflict of Interest is a bit dry, but the author spices up this legal tale of stock swindling with a bit of family drama, infidelity, and murder.
Alex Miller, the protagonist, is a young partner in a big New York City law firm. He's making tons of money, he has a beautiful wife and daughter, and everything is going right in his life. Until his father dies.
At his father's funeral, he meets an old family friend, someone who introduced Alex's parents to each other. Shortly thereafter, this friend, Michael Ohlig, comes to Alex to represent him. It turns out he's an extremely rich owner of an investment company and he's about to be charged by the U.S. District Attorney's office for fraud. Basically, he's accused of a penny stocks pump-and-dump scheme. This part is only moderately interesting, the main tension in the story being the question of whether Alex actually believes in his client's innocence despite all evidence to the contrary.
In the process of defending his father's old friend, he works closely with a beautiful young female associate in his firm. This goes to predictably bad places.
And then his mother dies, and the man Alex was just defending is accused of murdering her. This is the big twist that takes up the second half of the book. Once again, Alex has to wrestle with what he actually believes vs. what he says in court, except this time he's on the other side.
This was an engaging book, though I have to say I really didn't like Alex and I thought he acted like an idiot at several points in the book (and not just at the point where he decided to cheat on his wife and sleep with a coworker). Particularly when he commits perjury when he knows that the opposing counsel is capable of putting someone on the stand to contradict him - there was a more or less reasonable explanation for why the showdown I expected didn't happen, and the little twist at the end to cap off the family drama portion of the novel was also believable if frustrating. But at the end of it all, I found it a little hard to sympathize with anyone, especially Alex.
That said, it was a good, meaty legal suspense drama, and I'll seek out more books as this was apparently Mitzner's debut novel.
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