A CURE FOR NIGHT by Justin Peacock
“Disbarment had been a real possibility, so much so that my six-month suspension for admitted drug use actually came as a relief.”
Review by Bonnie Brody (OCT 24, 2009)
In this debut novel, Justin Peacock offers the reader an intense courtroom thriller. From page one, I was hooked and stayed hooked until the very end. As with the best page-turners, you won’t want to put this novel down until you find out what happens.
Joel Deveraux is working at a top-notch, white collar law office in New York City when he decides that he wants to date his legal assistant, Beth. Not only is this potentially unethical, but Beth also has the air of something forbidden; she is an adventurer in life, perhaps on the dark side. Joel soon finds out that Beth is playing with fire, a powdered fire called heroin. В While Beth is really into this drug and has already let her professional life flounder, Joel joins her as a weekend partier. He fools himself into believing that because he uses only on the weekend, he’s really okay. One day, at work, Beth overdoses and dies. Joel is at the center of the investigation and loses his job. He is given the option of resigning before he is fired and he takes this option. He also finds himself at the losing end of a civil lawsuit filed by Beth’s father who mistakenly believes that he was the one who got Beth into drugs. Joel loses his license to practice law for six months and finds himself unable to land a job at any reputable law firm. Word travels fast on the grapevine, even in Manhattan. Joel finally secures work as a public defender in Brooklyn. Though he’s not there for the idealistic reasons that many public defenders share, he appreciates the work. He’s not using heroin any longer but he’s not in a good recovery program either.
Joel has been working as a public defender for about six months, primarily doing arraignments, when his boss offers him the chance to play second chair in a murder investigation. This is where things begin to pick up and get really interesting. The reader is privy to intricate courtroom dramas between the public defender’s office and the prosecution, between lawyers and clients and between victims and perpetrators. We are shown the ugly head of racism as it peaks out from every corner, especially in jury selection and in impulsive judgments about clients. The dialogue is very realistic and the lingua franca of the city projects appears to be genuinely portrayed.
Joel is paired up with a senior defender on his team, Myra Goldstein. She is a seasoned six year veteran of the public defender’s office – tough, assertive, self-assured. She doesn’t see the need to have a second chair but her boss is concerned that she won’t have enough time to give to this case. Myra is also working on an appeal for another client who she believes is innocent but has just been sentenced to life in jail. Joel likes to be in the courtroom, an experience he did not have at his posh law office. The murder case also interests him a lot. A jewish student from Brooklyn College has been murdered at the projects. A second man, a black drug dealer, has been shot in the back twice and is alive. The alleged perpetrator, Lorenzo Tate, has been identified by an eye witness but continues to assert his innocence. It is a case with a lot more than meets the eye at first look. Joel learns that it is often not the best case that wins, but the best story. But what is the real story of this case? That’s what this book is about.
The title of this book is interesting in itself and forms one of the backdrops for the story. Myra says to Joel that “the day tries to correct the night’s mistakes. Most of my cases, people have done something they never would’ve dreamed of doing in broad daylight.” Joel asks Myra if that makes them the night janitors. Myra says “We’re absolutely that … What else do we do but clean up after it? That’s why we’ll never run out of work. Not unless someone invents a cure for night.”
While the novel is riveting at times and always a page-turner, the ending is a bit of a let-down. Despite fitting together nicely, I expected more of a drama and revelation than I was given. It seemed a bit too pat and a bit too far-fetched at the same time. Despite my disappointment with the ending, I could not put the book down until I got there. It had me in its clutches like a pit bull and I lost quite a bit of sleep last night.
I think that Justin Peacock has a good career ahead of him as he polishes his style and continues in this vein. I haven’t read such a good courtroom drama since The Juror by George Dawes Green or The Thirteenth Juror by John Lescroart. Peacock has a wonderful way with dialogue that keeps the nail biting going strong. I wanted better physical descriptions of Joel and Myra from the author but I made them up for myself. Peacock knows the courtroom. He understands the confrontations and the ethical dilemmas. He understands addiction and the rationalizations that addicts make to themselves when they’re not in full recovery. He knows how to keep the reader turning pages. I look forward to his next book.
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 58 readers|
|PUBLISHER:||Vintage (October 6, 2009)|
|AMAZON PAGE:||A Cure for Night|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||Justin Peacock’s blog
Daily News article on Justin Peacock
|EXTRAS:||Reading Guide and Excerpt|
|MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION:||More courtroom drama:
Missing Witness by Gordon Campbell
The Legal Limit by Martin Clark
The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly
The Last Goodbye by Reed Arvin