On the request of his father, Andy Carpenter, a lawyer in Jersey City, New Jersey, has agreed to represent death row inmate Willie Miller in his appeal. Andyís father Nelson was the highly respected State District Attorney who prosecuted Miller. He informs Andy that a juror may have lied in voir dire, a lie that could have affected the verdict. Soon afterwards, Nelson dies.
Andyís marriage to Nicole, the daughter of a U.S. senator, is crumbling. He is attracted to Laurie Collins, an investigator. He believes their marriage failed because Nicole wanted him to pursue a higher profile career, but when she asks if they can try again, he agrees.
Andy goes to his fatherís house to begin to clear it out. He discovers a photo hidden behind another photo; itís a picture of his father as a young man with a few friends. Andy grew up in comfortable but not wealthy circumstances so he is stunned when his fatherís lawyer informs him that he has been willed twenty-two million dollars. If his father had that kind of money, why had he never known? And why had his father never touched a penny of the money?
After some investigation, Andy comes to doubt his clientís guilt. A decades-old case has repercussions in the present.
Open and Shut features sharp dialogue and a well-crafted plot. Things come together very satisfactorily and neatly (in fact, a lot more neatly than ever happens in real life), and there are enough clues dropped along the way that the astute reader may figure it out before the end, but the author has one more surprise in store.
What raises this book above the level of acceptable to recommended is its narrator. Andy Carpenter is an appealing character with a self-deprecating sense of humor and a lively perspective. The author gives him a deft touch with an opinion or phrase that turns the book into more than merely a standard whodunit. Moreover, readers who particularly enjoy courtroom scenes in their legal thrillers (and Iím one) will not be disappointed.
The inside front cover reveals a sequel has already been published so this may be the just the first book in a series. Once they read Open and Shut, most readers will find this good news. Andy Carpenter is a hero who deserves more than one book.