'The Lawyer's Lawyer' By James Sheehan. Center Street, 416 pages, $22.99
The vagaries of legal ethics, a defendant's rights and a high-profile murder combine for an epic-like plot that spans 12 years in the life of defense attorney Jack Tobin.
Although at times unwieldy and marred by occasional bouts of clunky dialogue, "The Lawyer's Lawyer" keeps the tension high as it delivers a thoughtful look at the law and how an attorney has a duty to his client, no matter the cost.
Jack made a name for himself -- and millions of dollars -- as a high-profile attorney in Miami. But he isn't interested in making more money -- he'd rather be a "small-town country lawyer. . . fishing a little every day." So in 1991, he walks away from his lucrative practice to live in Oakville, Fla., because it is near Lake Okeechobee. But Jack will always be "a lawyer's lawyer," as one friend calls him, duty-bound to take cases that no one else wants when he sees the law mangled.
Jack takes on the case of Thomas Fenton, a law student convicted of murder and suspected of being a serial killer preying on college campuses. Jack believes his client innocent and proves that evidence had been planted. The case will consume the next eight years of Jack's life, resulting in him and his friends being ostracized by the town's residents, jeopardizing a relationship with a policewoman and even putting his life in peril.
Author James Sheehan, the director of the Tampa Law Institute, shows his affinity for making the intricacies of a police investigation and the resulting trial exciting. "The Lawyer's Lawyer" moves breathlessly through the years, illustrating the legal aspects of a case and the toll it takes on the people involved, especially the victims' families. But 12 years is a long time to sustain a plot and, at times, this saga sags.
Although Sheehan largely uses fictional Florida towns, the author captures the spirit of the Sunshine State, showcasing its beauty and hidden corners that residents know about but that few tourists see.
Oline H. Cogdill can be reached at email@example.com.
Meet the author
James Sheehan will discuss "The Lawyer's Lawyer" at 7 p.m. Jan. 11 at Murder on the Beach, 273 Pineapple Grove Way, Delray Beach, 561-279-7790.