Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Kermit Roosevelt's "In the Shadow of the Law"

Alafair Burke recommended a novel for our series on novels about what’s at stake in the debate over habeas corpus:

Kermit Roosevelt's In the Shadow of the Law.

Laura Miller praised In the Shadow of the Law at Salon.com:

The book's characters work in one of the profession's least exciting and heroic (if most remunerative) sectors: corporate law, on Washington's K Street, no less. They are not, for the most part, on the side of the angels, and some of them are downright nasty. You can learn a lot from Roosevelt about how corporations protect themselves from the consequences of their deeds (and misdeeds), and about the ways the legal whizzes who help them justify their own complicity. None of this is pretty, but you have to admire the sheer, diabolical ingenuity of it.

In an issue of Time magazine with the detainees at Guantanamo as the cover story—a coincidence, I take it, since the habeas issues at Gitmo and in the novel are very different—Lev Grossman praised Roosevelt’s debut novel:

It wouldn't be wrong to call In the Shadow of the Law a legal thriller, but it would sell the book short. There are suspenseful, devious plots aplenty—one about a last-minute death-row appeal, another about a corporation's dodging blame for an industrial accident—but it's Shadow's cast of characters, largely overworked junior lawyers, that will keep you up at night. Roosevelt (a descendant of Theodore and a former Supreme Court clerk) writes about the law more passionately and entertainingly than anyone since Scott Turow.
Alan Dershowitz also endorsed Roosevelt’s novel:

I recommend this book with real enthusiasm. Why? Precisely because it doesn't glamorize its subject. Roosevelt's gritty portrayal of the transformation of bright-eyed and colorful young associates into dim-eyed and gray middle-aged partners (no one seems to make it to his or her golden years) rings true of all too many corporate law factories, which have turned what used to be called a ''learned profession'' into a service industry that does little more than help the superrich get even richer. Roosevelt knows the world of which he writes. He has experienced the cynicism, careerism and opportunism of the zero-sum pyramid scheme called ''making partner,'' though from the somewhat rarefied perspective of a Supreme Court clerk who apparently became an associate only to gain experience for academia.
Alafair Burke is the author of three well-received novels. A former deputy district attorney in Portland, Oregon, she now teaches criminal law at Hofstra Law School. The daughter of acclaimed crime writer James Lee Burke, she currently serves as a legal and trial commentator for radio and television programs, including Court TV. She lives in New York City.

You can read an excerpt from Close Case, her third book in the Samantha Kincaid series, here.

Laura Lippman on Close Case:
Close Case is a terrific, multilayered novel, one that constantly surprises and delights. Everything is just right—the quotidian details about prosecutors, cops, and reporters, the richness of the Portland setting, the seamless plotting. Alafair Burke has outdone herself.
Her website notes that Alafair is a graduate of Stanford Law School. In this profile/interview of her father, he (appropriately) lets us know she graduated first in the class.

Click here to listen to Alafair and James Lee Burke interviewed on NPR.

Thanks to Alafair for the recommendation.

--Marshal Zeringue