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Legal Thrillers

Line of Vision, David Ellis, Berkley, $7.99.

I rarely read legal thrillers - Lisa Scottoline being an exception - but David Ellis not only won an Edgar for best first novel for Line of Vision, he agreed to visit Aunt Agatha's. I'm sorry I missed this writer before and look forward to catching up on his other books - Line of Vision is a sharp, nicely written, compelling and twisty legal thriller with many shades of gray in its resolution. If that makes you think of Scott Turow's masterpiece, Presumed Innocent, good - the comparison is an apt one - and Line of Vision is also set in a barely masked Chicago. Telling the story from the point of view of the unfortunate Marty Kalish, the book takes us on Marty's ride through his own trial for murder. He's accused of killing his girlfriend's abusive husband, and, though this seems straightforward, it's far from it. Since we are, as readers, seeing the story unfold through Marty's eyes, there's a sense throughout the novel that there are pieces missing.

Leapfrogging through time, going back to memories with the girlfriend, going back to his own childhood memories, Ellis skillfully paints a picture of a not completely admirable individual. As a reader, I usually start off on the protagonist's side - but as Ellis peels away layers of Marty's character and actions, you begin to feel more and more unsure of your own perceptions. The other characters in the book are revealed only as appendages to Marty - and it's a dismaying realization to think how selfishly and narrowly we all view the world. As Marty becomes more and more focused on saving his own skin, his character seems creepier and creepier. The final resolution is a twist, but it's a twist with more than well laid groundwork, and while it changes your feelings about Marty, there's still lingering doubt. No-one in this novel is blameless, and that's what sets this legal thriller apart from many others. If this is your genre of choice - and even if it isn't - Line of Vision is well worth a look. (Robin)

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