A young paralegal is shot just after she exits her car late at night. Almost immediately, the gun, her purse and cell phone are found nearby in the possession of a homeless man. A classic open-and-shut case. The police arrest the guy, get him a lawyer, and a date for the trial is set.
But in preparing for trial, the defendant’s counsel, Jason Kolarich, starts to notice a few nagging inconsistencies. Could it be that he has found himself that rarest of breeds: a client on trial for murder who is actually innocent? Normally, Kolarich doesn’t care nor does he want to know; he simply strives to get his client the best way out of a bad situation. This case, though, involving a war veteran who appears to have PTSD gets to him.
"Wise-cracking Jason Kolarich is one to watch, as is his creator. THE WRONG MAN shoots David Ellis up among the titans of legal thrillers. Move over, Grisham. Here comes a formidable challenger for the top spot."
“…I knew that my client really did suffer an episode of PTSD the night of the shooting. It wasn’t an argument. It wasn’t a theory. Tom Stoller, by all rights, should be acquitted. And whether he went to prison or a hospital when this was over would be entirely up to me.”
The defendant, Lt. Thomas Stoller, hasn’t denied his guilt. In fact, it looks like he has confessed to killing the woman in a robbery gone wrong. Kolarich and his team want to get Stoller the help he needs, so they turn to a plea of insanity. There is no doubt the man has some serious issues. But without the lieutenant’s help, their hands are tied. The prosecution is awarded the opportunity to examine him, and with the lack of responsiveness on the defendant’s part, odds are they will move to block an insanity defense. And they would be within their rights. Add to that a recalcitrant judge who plays by the rules more strictly than normal, and any good outcome looks more and more like an insurmountable achievement.
One night, as Kolarich sits at a bar medicating himself with booze, he meets Tori Martin, a woman who instantly intrigues him. Since he lost his wife, his track record with the ladies isn’t too good. To be honest, he hasn’t really cared until now. But Tori might just change that. Besides, it turns out that she is a big help with the Stoller case. She seems to have an uncanny knack of finding new investigative directions whenever Kolarich reaches a dead end or becomes mired in indecision.
As they begin to delve deeper into the victim’s background, pieces of the puzzle fall into place, forming a terrifying scenario. With growing horror, hoping against hope that it isn’t true, Kolarich confirms his worst suspicions. But even if he’s right, who can he tell, and how can he get anyone to take him seriously?
In the meantime, Kolarich, Tori, and the rest of Stoller’s legal entourage must go ahead with their new defense theory: innocence. With a confession on tape and the lieutenant’s incoherent ramblings --- mostly consisting of detailed reports of the jail food --- they know they’ll need to pull a rabbit out of a hat. And that’s just what they do.
Wise-cracking Jason Kolarich is one to watch, as is his creator. THE WRONG MAN shoots David Ellis up among the titans of legal thrillers. Move over, Grisham. Here comes a formidable challenger for the top spot.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on June 29, 2012