Click Here To Purchase Under Fire

Author: Margaret McLean

ISBN: 978-0-7653-2814-4

Publisher: Forge (A Tom Doherty Associates Book)

Perhaps, as a result of my thirty- five years practicing law, good legal thrillers always fascinated me and Margaret McLean's Under Fire didn't disappoint. The publicity material that was sent to me with the book stated that McLean was named by the Boston Globe as one of “The Next Faces of Boston Crime Fiction,” which I would tend to agree. It should be pointed out that McLean is no stranger to the world of criminal law, earning her law degree from Boston College and then going onto practice as a criminal prosecutor. Quite interesting is that the novel is based on several actual cases and McLean spent time researching the book's evidence with special access and training. In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services conducted a live burn, investigation, and mock trial based on the facts of the book. McLean even suited up and fought the fire with them! McLean currently teaches law at Boston College's Carroll School of Management.

McLean offers up a sizzling tale that is jump started when a fire occurs in a Senegalese market in Boston, where, while rescuing the Muslim owner of the store, Amina Diallo and her son Malick, Jack Fogerty, a firefighter is shot and killed. After an investigation, it was ascertained that no one else was present in the market at the time of the fire other than Diallo and her son. Diallo becomes the prime suspect and is accused of arson and the murder of Fogerty. The investigators conclude that Diallo set her market on fire for the insurance money because she was about to be foreclosed. As for the murder, they believed that because the fire department got to the fire too soon, Diallo panicked and began shooting and unfortunately Fogerty was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The prosecutor, Nick Marinelli needed this case, as he lived for the limelight, and a successful conviction would win him a great deal of points among his peers and employers, particularly the District Attorney, who was about to throw his hat into the ring for Attorney General. The evidence seemed to be solid, however, there was something that frightened Marinelli- something was not quite right and he couldn't figure out what was it.

Buddy Clancy, a seasoned and crafty defense attorney takes on the case to defend Diallo believing that there is something unique about it and the woman who stands accused. As he states: “she's the perfect puzzle piece, the right colors and shape, but wedged into the wrong spot.” To help him with the case, Casey enlists his brilliant niece Sarah Lynch, who had been very content to give up her employment over four years ago as a prosecutor in the DA's office. Initially, Lynch is very reluctant to become involved in defending Diallo as she felt it was an open and shut case. In addition, as she never practiced as a criminal defense attorney, she felt that she lacked the know-how and necessary skills. However, uncle Buddy was not going to take no for an answer. He is very persuasive and generally gets his way and succeeds in persuading his niece to join him.

The novel draws its energies from the meticulous defense strategy that Clancy and Lynch pursue or, as Lynch asserts, “The prosecution built what appears to be the perfect bridge, and we have to show it's an illusion.” For Clancy, “trying cases is a lot like chess. All boil downs to strategy: you have to really see the board and visualize what your next moves will be.”

In addition, there are also the jurors' intriguing reflections and ruminations as they listen to the testimonies of the various witnesses. And not to be left out is the racial and religious prejudice that creeps into their heads. To add more courtroom drama, the accused is targeted by a gunman in open court, one of the key witnesses is attacked, important documents are stolen, there is suspicion of political influence peddling, and above all, someone is trying very hard to prevent Lynch and Clancy from winning the case.

In the end we have everything that a good legal thriller should comprise, beginning with a jolt and then continuing to become even better. I would not be surprised if this one is to be optioned for a movie.

Click Here To Purchase Under Fire

Click Here To Read Norm's Interview With Margaret McLean