A Conflict of Interest by Adam Mitzner
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Goodreads: Alex Miller is a criminal defense attorney and, at thirty-five, the youngest partner in one of the most powerful law firms in New York City. He's a man at the top of his game with the life he's always dreamed of, complete with a devoted wife, who remains patient with his long hours and high-stakes cases, and the love of a beautiful young daughter.
At his father's funeral, Alex meets Michael Ohlig—a mysterious and nearly mythic figure in Miller family history—who presents Alex with a surprising request: to represent him in a high-profile criminal investigation . . . an alleged brokerage scam that has lost hundreds of millions of dollars for investors. Wealthy beyond words, Ohlig insists he's done nothing wrong, and Alex, who's experienced enough to know that clients always lie, uncharacteristically believes him.
As the facts come out, shocking secrets are revealed that threaten everything Alex believes in–about the law, his family, and himself. Yet Alex's desperate need for the truth propels him to unscrupulous depths, and to confront a past defined by deception and a future in jeopardy . . . with the realization that one false step could destroy everything Alex holds dear.
My take: This is not a fast paced novel like you might find in John Grisham. However, the style was incredibly appealing to me but I say that with a caveat. The author is an attorney and uses this book as an educational tool which I find invaluable. The protagonist is a criminal defense lawyer in a large, high power attorney group. He is asked by a family friend to represent him in a criminal case. At every turn, Michael, the accused, holds a belief that truth will prevail. With Alex, the protagonist, patiently explaining the process and how the judicial system works, the reader is educated that truth has very little to do with the judicial system. The tricks of the trade are much more invaluable to the defense attorney and Alex and Michael constantly butt heads over this issue.
The book might prove to be boring to a reader not interested in the inner workings of the justice system. Alex tries very hard to educate Michael on how to win a case, when to cut your losses and cut a deal, and how the law applies to the allegations, choosing a jury and why the make-up of the jury is so important, the politics of big attorney companies, and so on. Although somewhat technical, I found it fascinating and surprisingly relevant. One will not escape this life without either being a witness to a crime, being accused and having to hire an attorney, or being selected for jury duty.
The story itself really picks up at the end of the trial. The outcome is determined and Alex has made choices that have compromised his moral fiber. To add insult to injury, the man he has just defended is placed under arrest for a murder of someone close to Alex. Again, Alex is placed in a gray area where he makes choices that mirror his new enemy. The twists are somewhat agonizing but unexpected. I really enjoyed it.