Review

Malice

by Robert K. Tanenbaum

Everybody has a story, and Robert K. Tanenbaum has been blessed
with the talent to tell them well. In his series starring District
Attorney Butch Karp, his wife Marlene Ciampi, his daughter Lucy and
his twin boys, the author always places the family in dangerous
circumstances. He spins a multilayered tale full of detours,
subplots, atmosphere and an interesting assortment of characters
limned in terrific writing.

In his newest novel, MALICE, several interwoven stories abound. At
first they seem to be unrelated, but readers know that can't be
true. Or can it? The Prologue outlines Sir Walter Raleigh's vain
struggle for justice in his own life. Karp is called upon to
elaborate on Raleigh's plight: "The injustices of Raleigh's trial
had been the fertile soil from which many of the U.S.
Constitution's most important protections had sprung." Within the
fundamental architecture of the book, Tanenbaum links America's
Constitutional protection to allow anyone accused of a crime to
face her/his accuser(s). Is the definition of a "fair hearing" as
interpreted by different codes of law, or does one standard exist
for all? Can certain private enterprises use their own rules and
laws to override the carefully drafted protections guaranteed by
the Constitution? 

As the book opens, Butch is shot three times and his wife shoots
the would-be assassin. While in the hospital, Butch is visited by
Grale, a "friend" (from previous adventures) who lives as a "mole
person" under the city of New York. He is a guardian to the Karp
family, as well as a killer. His mission on the night he visits
Butch is to bring him a warning: he has a traitor among those he
trusts.

As the narrative continues to unfold, readers learn that one of
Butch's closest associates is the lover of a gutsy investigative
reporter who fearlessly takes on anyone she thinks deserves outing.
When she becomes the target of a hit, Butch's confidante, Murrow,
gets in the way, and the assassin goes over the side of the
building. Their exploits are woven into the larger story and appear
almost as cameos. This is true of other eccentric players who move
in and out of the limelight, a device Tanenbaum is adept at
using.

Next we find ourselves in New Mexico, where Lucy Karp, now in her
early 20s, continues to have "visions" and extraordinary intuitive
insights. She left New York to live on a ranch with her lover who
is a "real 21st century cowboy." Readers catch up with her while
she is on a spirit quest, enhanced by peyote, under the supervision
of her close friend Jojola, a Native American. Then, out of the
blue, she receives a visit from a family friend who is involved in
some kind of secret government organization. He spirits her back to
the city where she is charged with the mission of translating a
Manx code of some kind. And she knows just the person to help her:
Cian Magee, an aging agoraphobic bookseller who will do anything to
help Lucy.

Butch is soon on the mend and takes a long walk every morning. One
day he bumps into another old friend. The man invites him to come
for breakfast with a group of retirees, who meet weekly to discuss
law, politics, philosophy and whatever else is on the table. When
they reach the restaurant, Butch recognizes most of the men. At
this point readers are able to connect the first dot. That day's
topic becomes Sir Walter Raleigh, and Butch is asked to explain why
and how Raleigh was railroaded by "the system" of his time to his
execution. Butch explains why and how Raleigh's mistreatment became
one of the bases of the infrastructure of the United States' legal
and political systems. He wins the debate, and after leaving the
group, they agree that "he is the one." 

The next episode begins when the younger brother of another friend
calls upon Butch to help him out of a terrible situation. He lives
in northwestern Idaho and is the baseball coach at a small college
where he has been set up to be fired. His career would be over and
his life ruined if he loses the civil suit he is bringing against
the ACAA and the school. Rufus Porter, who has been thrown off the
team, is a neo-Nazi who raped another student and is responsible
for the coach's problems. As the trial approaches, an angry Butch
Karp heads to Iowa promising himself that he will win this case.
After all, it smells of the same dirty secrets and injustice that
befell Raleigh.

Marlene makes her way to Iowa as well and gets involved with the
case. While there, she meets a distraught gentleman who approaches
her and asks for help in finding his missing daughter. The girl was
a student at the same college as Rufus Porter, and her father is
losing faith that she is alive or that he will ever be able to give
her a proper burial.

No member of the Karp family needs a resume, yet fans and new
readers cannot deny that each in her/his own way is a hero. They
all emerge as crusaders with mighty fists and hearts of gold. None
of them seeks any public recognition, which makes them all the more
likable. They are smart, street-wise, caring and loyal. Their
fierce sense of justice and compassion comes through on every
page.

Between wrong turns, smelly red herrings and missteps, fans will
find that Tanenbaum has written a fast-paced, interesting and
entertaining police procedural cum courtroom drama. As readers
speed to the climax through all that happens, they will feel very
satisfied once they get there. MALICE is the perfect vacation
read.

Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on January 7, 2011

Malice
by Robert K. Tanenbaum

  • Publication Date: August 7, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Atria
  • ISBN-10: 074327119X
  • ISBN-13: 9780743271196