I don't know who Terry Devane is. All the biographical info that I
could come up with says that Devane "is the pseudonym of an
attorney and award-winning novelist who lives in Boston." Tells you
nothing. In fact, less than nothing. It might be misleading, even.
Maybe "Devane" won an award, but it might not be for writing. In
fact, maybe the only novels that Devane has written are under the
name "Devane." See why we gotta be careful, here? Anyway, JUROR
NUMBER ELEVEN is Devane's second novel featuring Mairead O'Clare, a
newly minted defense attorney, and her boss and mentor Sheldon
A word, here: Sheldon Gold's law firm is so diverse I'm not sure if
it's an office or an ark. You have the Jewish partner, the Irish
associate, the black secretary, the gay investigator...and as far
as I can tell they're the only ones who work there. Doesn't happen
in real life, not with a firm that small. Not really. So the reader
has to engage in a little bit of suspension of disbelief whenever
they have an office meeting. Another thing: O'Clare has
conversations in her head with a deceased nun who served as a de
facto parent to her in the orphanage where O'Clare was raised.
I shouldn't say it's a conversation because it's a one way
dialogue, from the nun. It's very irritating, too. The irritation
level it reaches, however, highlights how engrossing an author
Devane is, for in spite of such quibbles JUROR NUMBER ELEVEN really
draws in the reader.
JUROR NUMBER ELEVEN opens in medias rae, during the closing
argument of a murder trial.
Gold and O'Clare are defending "Big" Ben Friedman, a boyhood friend
of Gold's who is accused of murder. O'Clare notices that during the
closing arguments Conchita Balaguer --- Juror Number Eleven --- is
staring at her. James Seagraves, the prosecutor, notices as well.
When Friedman, an extremely unsympathetic character, is acquitted,
Seagraves suspects jury tampering is the reason. Later in the day,
however, O'Clare receives a hurried telephone call from Balaguer,
who insists on seeing her immediately. When O'Clare arrives at
Balaguer's house, however, she discovers JUROR NUMBER ELEVEN
hanging from a rope, dead. The immediate suspect, of course, is Big
Ben Friedman. Friedman's accountant, then Friedman himself,
disappear in short order. Gold and O'Clare, meanwhile, attempt to
find out what they can about the dead juror, her life, and what
occurred with the jury during the course of the trial. The layers
of Balaguer's life are slowly removed, with her secrets and those
of others, revealed. But will Gold and O'Clare be able to discover
who murdered her in time to establish their client's unlikely
innocence? That is the question that will have you reading JUROR
NUMBER ELEVEN late into the night.
Devane's strength here is in the plotting. The characters, though
somewhat broadly drawn and unlikely, are nonetheless interesting,
and ultimately, we care about them, which helps to move along JUROR
NUMBER ELEVEN. Devane has found an interesting formula and will
undoubtedly pursue it successfully in the future.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011