||In this legal thriller, a young judge in Portland, Oregon, struggles to save his marriage and his career after he becomes personally involved in the murder case he's adjudicating. The judge, Richard Quinn, is a deeply principled man who has proven himself an honorable and fair-minded public servant. When an extremely wealthy undertaker is murdered in his mansion in the West Hills of town, Quinn is chosen to preside over the case. The dead man's widow, Ellen Crease, is a driven state congressional representative who is running for a seat in the United States Senate. She's a shapely, pistol-packing Republican and a former cop. She's also a suspect, as is the dead man's underachieving son. Crease's political enemies also appear to be involved in the intrigue, but it's difficult to tell. After someone connected to the case tries to blackmail the judge for an extramarital misstep, Quinn decides to take matters into his own hands. He does some investigating, shares his discoveries with people who seem to be trustworthy (but aren't), and puts himself in harm's way.
It's interesting to follow Quinn as he grapples with the ethical issues of the case. When the blackmailers want him to tip the scales of justice one way, he considers tipping them the other direction. There is also something inherently diverting about observing a basically good man who is helplessly mired in a whole heap of trouble. Throughout the book, Quinn keeps stumbling into mortal danger and confiding in all the wrong people, digging himself deeper and deeper in trouble. --Jill Marquis