What would you do for your worst enemy?

A review of The Verdict by Nick Stone

I had few expectations of The Verdict when I began reading. I knew it was a legal mystery (always a draw for me) and that the protagonist was going to be part of the defense team for a man he hates (that was the hook in the description). But I'd read nothing else by the author or any reviews of the book, so other than knowing those things, it was a total mystery (ha! sorry for the pun). Turns out it's going to be one of my best of the year. Don't you love when that happens?

So here's the deal: Terry Flynt works as a legal clerk in a large London firm. He's relatively new and so far the hardest thing about his job is dealing with Arabella (aka Adolf), a fellow clerk and office bully. That relationship gets worse when Terry is asked to assist on a huge criminal case. A millionaire has been arrested for the murder of a woman found in his hotel suite and he's hired Terry's law firm. If Terry does a good job on the case, he has a shot at a paralegal position and to have his law school tuition paid for by the firm. A no brainer, right?

But here's the kicker: The defendent is Vernon James. Terry grew up with Vernon in a working-class neighborhood and until college, the two were best friends. Then Vernon betrayed him and Terry's life went to hell. So how does he help defend a man he loathes? A man he's pretty convinced is guilty? And if he does, how does he keep his bosses from knowing his connection to Vernon?

I flew through reading this one and though it's a long one (~500 pgs.), I wished it didn't have to end. As Terry is drawn deeper into Vernon's troubles he has to deal with office politics, hidden schemes and perhaps danger to his own life. This one worked for me in every way. I'll consider it an early Christmas gift to myself.