Author: Rebecca Forster

Publisher:  New American Library (a division of Penguin Group)

ISBN:  0-451-21163-4

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Love a good legal thriller?  Me too!  Hostile Witness provides just that:  an array of compelling, well-developed characters along with dynamic courtroom drama.

Troubled sixteen year old Hannah Sheraton is charged with murder.  Hampered by her obsessive-compulsive disorder, she struggles to cope with something that any teenager, let alone an adult, would find daunting.  The evidence points to Hannah striking her step-grandfather, California Supreme Court Justice Fritz Rayburn, and then torching their shared residence to cover up the crime.

The beautiful and scheming Linda Sheraton is Hannah’s mother.  While you may want to dismiss her as a steely-eyed gold-digger, Linda seems to truly love her daughter.  She seeks out her former college roommate for help.

Attorney Josie Baylor-Bates is surprised to find a distressed Linda on her doorstep one evening.  It isn’t like they were fast friends back in their college days, so what gives now?  When she finds out Linda wants Josie to represent her daughter, Josie is very reluctant.  Enter the complexity:  Josie is still haunted by a former case in which she successfully defended someone who went on to murder again.  ‘Just let me be a small town lawyer’ is Josie’s mantra as she tries to recover from her horrible past.  But after meeting Hannah, Josie realizes that she must put herself once more on the line.  And, as it turns out, there’s more on the line than Josie initially thinks.

The victim, Justice Fitz Rayburn, is extolled as a great human being.  The world mourns his demise.  But Justice Rayburn might not have been the sweetheart everyone thinks he was. Josie uncovers more than one unsavory story that only serves to thicken the plot and multiply the suspects as well as infuriate the media.

Kip Rayburn just wants it all to go away.  And go away quietly so his nomination to fill his father’s shoes in the Supreme Court will go through.  Go away quietly so that he can enjoy the prestige and privilege of that position.  His only flaw is his desire for his wife, Linda.  Or is that his only flaw?

Forster deftly builds the tension as the courtroom case nears completion.  Will Hannah be found guilty?  Is she guilty?  Will Josie have once more freed a dangerous killer?   In a Hitchcockian-type move, Forster allows the reader to figure out the real killer steps ahead of Josie Baylor-Bates.  She then diabolically leaves you biting your nails as Josie gets closer and closer to figuring out the truth.  (Ever screamed “don’t go in there!” to the victim in a slasher movie?  That was the feeling I had).

Hostile Witness is sure to engage.  I had three other books to read but my hand kept creeping back to pick up Hostile Witness in every free moment.  I just had to know how the story ended.  You will too.

Hostile Witness delivers.  Two thumbs up.

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