Justin Peacock’s first novel, A CURE FOR NIGHT, has been compared to the earlier works of such legal thriller authors as John Grisham and Scott Turow. With his second effort, BLIND MAN’S ALLEY, he firmly claims the gauntlet from them as this book resonates the way Grisham and Turow used to write earlier in their careers.
As a legal thriller, BLIND MAN’S ALLEY has it all --- corporate greed, murder, conspiracy, and a highly ethical young attorney caught in the middle of a moral dilemma that could make or break his career before it ever really gets started. Such is the case with Duncan Riley, a lawyer trying to make partner at the prestigious New York City law firm of Blake and Wolcott.
It seems that Riley has been handed a few easy tasks that will firmly implant him in the hierarchy of his firm and assure his financial success for years to come. First off, he is brought in by senior partner Steve Blake to help represent Simon Roth and his real estate development company, Roth Properties. The case features an unfortunate accident at one of their sites --- the deaths of three manual laborers working on the Aurora Tower condo development in SoHo --- who lost their lives when a weakened floor collapsed and plunged them to their deaths 300 feet below. Roth is a surly character who has been somewhat hands off with the management of his company in recent years, slowly passing the reigns to his son Jeremy and daughter Leah.
Riley is introduced to the Roth clan, and it appears that Leah takes an immediate liking to him. In an effort to make partner, a young attorney must also do a certain amount of pro bono work along the way. Riley’s pro bono case finds him representing a young Hispanic man named Rafael Nazario, who is accused of killing a security guard at his Alphabet City project development. The case is not as open and shut as Riley would have liked. Upon further investigation, he finds out that Nazario and his grandmother were being threatened with eviction from their apartment and the guard who Nazario allegedly shot was accused of shaking down residents of this project in an effort to oust them and bring in higher-class residents. To make matters worse, the ownership behind both the Alphabet City projects where Nazario lived and the security company that employed the guards accused of wrongdoing was…Roth Properties.
When Riley finds this out, he approaches Blake and asks if he should drop the case due to conflict of interest with the other matter he is handling on behalf of Roth Properties. Blake assures Riley that the Nazario case is cut and dry with several witnesses and should pose no such conflict as long as Riley pushes the case quickly through the system. Unfortunately, this does not sit well on Riley’s conscience and he continues to look into the matter to make sure there is no connection between Roth Properties and the murder of the security guard in Alphabet City.
Two relationships in Riley’s life lead him to make the right choice. First off, Leah continues to pursue Riley in a less than professional manner, and they consummate their relationship in her bedroom. She indicates that he can do better than just shooting for partner at Blake and Wolcott and promises him a high-paying job as corporate counsel for Roth Properties instead. At the same time, Riley’s path crosses with investigative journalist Candace Snow, reporter for the hard-hitting New York Journal, who claims to have proof that the two cases Riley is working on involving Roth Properties are not only connected but that Roth is liable for both the death of the workers at Aurora Towers and the railroading of Nazario for a murder he did not commit. What is Riley to do?
It is here where Justin Peacock’s writing shines as he keeps the narrative moving forward like an out-of-control freight train. By doing the “right thing,” Riley is taken off the Roth case, bounced out of his law firm and supplanted as Nazario’s attorney by a court-appointed lackey. Even with the help of Snow and a mountain of subjective evidence, will it be enough for Riley to save Nazario from life imprisonment and salvage his now-defunct law career? BLIND MAN’S ALLEY never lets down, and Peacock keeps his finger firmly on the pulse of the graft, corruption and political conspiracy that marks the pages of New York City newspapers on a daily basis.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on December 22, 2010