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by Terry Devane
Berkley, August 2004
338 pages
ISBN: 0425197425

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Judge Barbara Pitt is presiding over a high-profile sexual abuse case involving a disgraced Catholic priest and she is nervous. Her research assistant has gone missing with no one knowing his whereabouts and for personal reasons the judge does not dare go to the police.

During the weeks preparing to hear the Dooley case, she has been having an affair with her law clerk and no one has been the wiser. If her relationship with Charles Vareika is exposed it might create serious consequences for the case, and her personal and professional life would be over. Not knowing where to turn to she goes to one person she knows she can trust, an attorney as well as former flame, Sheldon Gold.

Shel and his associates -- Mairead O'Clare, private investigator Pontifico 'The Pope' Murizzi and secretary Billie Sunday -- agree, albeit reluctantly, to see what they can do, not knowing what is in store for them. The case will take a toll on everyone, testing them as individuals and how well they work as a team. One of the associates has serious misgiving about the case, while another one's life will be forever dramatically changed.

The clerk's disappearance brings in a can of worms filled with secrets and lies that will affect the Boston legal system as well as cause a major scandal. They need to find Vareika before it gets to be too late.

In A STAIN UPON THE ROBE, Terry Devane (pseudonym of author Jeremiah Healy) uses current events to try to evoke a sense of realism in the process of telling the story. In this case the book centers on the recently exposed scandal involving pedophile priests in the Catholic Church. As offensive as this topic is, the author sanitizes the story by not getting graphic and just dealing with the characters presented in the book. The author presents the case from both sides of the spectrum, from the lawyers to those defending pedophilia. Each side has its own agenda and each one does what it can to promote their views to anyone willing to listen.

The strengths of this novel are in its characters, particularly of Shel and his associates. Each one has a story of who they are, each one feeling like outcasts from everyone one else, not knowing, or for that case realizing, how extraordinary they really are. As each one shows their vulnerable sides to the readers it makes it much easier for the readers to identify with each one of these characters. That is not an easy feet, the author deserves credit for that.

The book's weakness is in the details. Readers are already surrounded by numerous legal shows including LAW & ORDER and CSI. There is a lot of information inside the book that would be considered redundant for people who watch these shows. It is almost like it was being spoon-fed to make sure we understand what was going on.

Though not one of my favorites, this book is good -- flaws and all. It definitely deserves a follow-up after the book's dramatic ending. It is worth checking out to see what happens next.

Reviewed by Angel L. Soto, November 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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