Luke Garrison, a former D.A. who has abandoned the problematic morality of convincing juries to send criminals to the gas chamber, first appeared in The Disappearance, in which his old mentor wanted Luke to take on a sensational murder case that had the entire country abuzz. In Above the Law, J.F. Freedman continues to apply a successful formula: reluctant hero takes on a case that nobody, but nobody, wants. This time out, Nora Ray, the D.A. of Muir County, the least populated and poorest county in California--and a friend from Luke's law school days--asks Luke to help her investigate a recent police killing, which she believes may be a monumental government coverup.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has swaggered, guns blazing, into the forests near the White Horse reservation, intent on raiding the fortress-like retreat of Reynaldo Juarez, the notoriously reclusive leader of one of the biggest drug-dealing gangs in the country. Janet Reno herself has determined that he must be taken alive, so when the raid is blown, four DEA agents are killed, and Juarez himself dies after being taken into custody, questions and recriminations are par for the course. Nora and Luke must negotiate local hostility and pitched interdepartmental acrimony as they slowly unravel the tangled stories that surround the fiasco. But as he casts his investigative gaze from the poverty of the nearby reservation to the depths of the L.A. ghettos, Luke may be dangerously blind to the nearness of immediate treachery and deceit.
Freedman's strength is Luke's weakness: plagued by fears of failure, haunted by his decision to put job before family, Luke is an appealingly flawed narrator. While Freedman's engaging voice may not completely conceal his occasionally turgid prose, or his tendency to rely on coincidence as the shortest distance between two conundrums, it should be a sufficient siren's call to his loyal fans and those looking for a legal procedural with a conscience. --Kelly Flynn