Five Smiley-Faced Thumbs Up! Another superb courtroom drama with volatile emotional context from Margaret McLean.
Annie Fitzgerald is prosecuting a despicable criminal figure in Boston’s infamous Charlestown section. She has a personal ax to grind and is obsessed with getting a conviction. She is assisted by homicide detective Callahan who is grinding his own ax. Together they share the obsessed cause of convicting Billy Malone.
Buddy Clancy would top the list of interesting people anyone has encountered. He and his golden retriever, Rehnquist, both sport bow ties and both have a sweet tooth. Buddy was more likeable in McClean’s previous book, Under Fire. Buddy seems more contentious. His folksy style fades against the counterpoint of the killer he is defending. Buddy seems to undergo a crisis of conscience with his defense of what may be a multiple murder suspect.
The plot is complicated and believable. There are a wealth of seedy characters that provide grit and grime to the story line. Sadly the story has a ring of truth which probably is the reason it is so captivating. Charlestown exhibits many of the characteristics of small towns and insular communities. Ms. McLean did an exceptional job in painting the atmosphere of this type of neighborhood.
The murdered artist Trevor Shea tells his own poignant story through out the book. The thread of his work is what ties this book so very neatly tight.
This was a very good book and an outstanding courtroom drama. I highly recommend it. -WilliamBentrim, Pick of the Literate http://bookrevues.blogspot.com/2012/04/under-oath-by-margaret-mclean.htmlerate
Boston prosecuting attorney Annie Fitzgerald takes center stage in McLean’s rousing courtroom drama, while defense attorney Buddy Clancy, featured in her 2011 debut, Under Fire, provides a wily and unscrupulous foil. On trial for murdering promising Charlestown artist Trevor Shea is the despicable Billy Malone, notorious even in Charlestown, a one-square-mile area with “the highest unsolved murder rate in the country.” For Annie and Boston homicide detective Mike Callahan, convicting Malone would be a coup, since they believe him responsible for many deaths. Clancy is willing to shred reputations and demolish witnesses to win the case for Malone. The Honorable Conrad J. Killam, the judge presiding over the trial, gives both sides wide latitude. Missing witnesses, surprise witnesses, reluctant witnesses, brutal cross examinations, disputed exhibits, and a hodge-podge of jurors keep the outcome in doubt. Occasional rough spots outside the courtroom shouldn’t keep fans of legal thrillers from enjoying Annie and Clancy’s courtroom battles. Agent: Susan Gleason, Susan Gleason Literary Agency. (Apr.) -Publishers Weekly
Under Oath-Margaret McLean
In Charlestown, Massachusetts nasty hood Billy Malone stands on trial for the murder of artist Trevor Shea. Defending the viscous criminal is attorney Buddy Clancy while prosecutor Annie Fitzgerald argues for the Commonwealth. Assisting Annie is Boston homicide detective Mike Callahan who believes Malone has killed many people including the painter whose renditions of murder scenes are harrowing.
The case turns ugly as witnesses are murdered and the jury wants to leave but not in a body bag as one of them keeps leaking secrets that frighten the others who fear they will be targeted next. Annie and Mike believe the key to getting this scum off the street is Trevor’s painting, but his brother Chris refuses to cooperate. The verdict remains up in the air as both sides present their case.
In Under Fire, Clancy was the protagonist; in Under Oath he plays second fiddle to Annie. The courtroom scenes are superb while the streets of Charlestown add to this wonderful legal thriller. Both Annie and Mike lose perspective as each accepts the premise that the end justifies the mean in terms of insuring a violent vicious psychopath is locked away. Although the Honorable Judge Conrad J. Killam seems to allow too many shenanigans, readers will enjoy this fine courtroom drama.
-Harriet Klausner, The Mystery Gazette
UNDER OATH Former prosecutor McLean juggles a vast cast of characters in this courtroom drama, her second legal thriller, set in the crime-ridden Boston neighborhood of Charlestown.
Readers met quirky defense attorney Buddy Clancy in McLean’s first novel (Under Fire, 2011). This time Clancy is defending a not-so-innocent drug dealer and killer named Billy Malone, who prevails as the scourge of Charlestown. Feisty prosecutor Annie Fitzgerald, an Asian American despite her Irish name, has joined forces with Boston Homicide Det. Mike Callahan, whose career-long crusade to put Malone out of business and in prison has taken him to dark places. This time the pair have Charlestown’s resident bad boy up on a charge of killing a young artist named Trevor Shea, whose insightful and lifelike paintings take the viewer deep into the souls of his subjects. Trevor, who died after using some particularly potent heroin, left behind a collection of paintings depicting Charlestown’s more famous murder victims. Annie believes those paintings hold the key to solving Trevor’s death and races the clock to find more of them, as well as the key that links them together. But she has her work cut out for her: In addition to a garrulous and uncooperative juror who spills the jury’s secrets, she’s also battling the one person who should want to see the case against Malone succeed, Trevor’s brother Chris. While Annie tries to keep the prosecution’s witnesses from being picked off one-by-one, she finds that she cares almost too much about getting Malone off the streets once and for all. As for Clancy, he struggles with his representation of the repugnant Malone, but justifies his defense by claiming he’s doing it to ensure the sanctity of Malone’s constitutional rights. McLean writes trial scenes well and distinguishes herself by moving some of the action out of the courtroom. However, she also requires the reader to suspend common sense and swallow the premise that the present guardians of Boston’s justice system routinely behave like a bunch of squabbling kids fighting over whose turn it is at bat. Melodramatic and implausible in places, but still entertaining. -Kirkus Book Reviews
UNDER OATH REVIEW: Testifying in court is difficult for most witnesses and at times frightening. Officers and witnesses face the same cross-examination by the Prosecution and the Defense attorneys and either side can fire questions at will. One young girl named Jennianne Smith fears for her life, as she is about to take the stand against gangster Billy Malone accused of killing Trevor Shea, a suspected informant. Murder weapon: A perfect dose of heroin. But, this is not a usual trial or a usual case as the town of Charlestown holds its secrets close to the vest and their murders often go unsolved. No witnesses and many unsolved murders in this town and a Code Of Silence like their own Blue Wall that controls the outcome of many events. Never talk to the police, say nothing and keep it to yourself is their mantra. But, one young officer rehearses his role and other helps prepare him. One young girl’s life hangs in the balance as she now faces the Grand Jury and the court scene is about to unfold as I review Under Oath by author Margaret McLean. Buddy Clancy is defending drug dealer Buddy Malone who seems to be the drug kind in Charlestown creating fear in many. Trevor Shea was an aspiring young artist whose paintings were extremely introspective and encompassed the inner most feelings and thoughts of the subjects painted. As the author describes each painting you can feel the emotion of each subject within the envelope yourself within the setting.
As the trial begins both sides present their cases and the show begins as the Defense attorney uses theatrics to get at the first two witnesses on the stand. One officer unsure of himself and the other one made to sound unfeeling both sides are in for a long battle as the only one that seems in control is the killer. Witnesses are called and evidence comes to light that might change the veracity of one witness’s testimony as Clancy tries to destroy the rest. The author even allows you to hear the inner most thoughts of the foreman of the jury and one juror named Elaine he discusses the events with many others. But, the wall of silence runs even deeper as the FBI refuses to assist in the case or present the information that might help Annie. Why won’t Trevor’s brother help? Why so hostile and defeated before the case gets into full swing? As the star witness testifies something happens and she snaps fearing for her life and blurting out what would happen if they do not get twelve votes? Frustration, anger and fear fill the minds of the witnesses and Annie too as one goes missing and Jennianne flips out.
Courtroom scenes that short and concise and present the evidence in a clear-cut manner not only for the jury but the reader too. Frustrations run high, the judge seems to be siding with the defendant and Annie strikes out Trevor’s brother and one police detective she holds responsible for her star witness’s death. The playing field seems to have narrowed and the judge has to decide about whether to allow specific evidence read. With one witness dead will he allow Annie to have the witness’s prior testimony given to the grand jury read in court? Will Malone finally get convicted or will he walk one more time? Just how many people did he pay off and how far does his power go?
As the case draws to a close and the evidence is presented the paintings will give you the answers you need as Billy Malone takes the stand the reason for so many deaths comes front and center. Just what did Trevor Shea paint and what was the message in his paintings? A town that believed in silence and the people living there kept quiet. A town filled with fear and many who would pay for their silence. Author and attorney Margaret McLean takes the reader inside the minds of the jurors, their thoughts, their analysis of the witnesses and the lawyers too. Taking the reader along with the jurors through court procedures, witness tampering and corruption in the police force and FBI all the way up to the top. The ending will definitely surprise the reader with definite twists and turns in the case you won’t see coming. When the verdict is supposed to be read wait until you see what happens. One young man tells it all in his paintings but just how do they reveal the truth you will have to learn for yourself. You see I am UNDER OATH and promised to tell the truth that this is a great mystery thriller but will never divulge the ending or verdict. -Fran Lewis, Bookpleasures.com