The Bottom Line: An absorbing legal procedural that shines a bright light on the egos and strategic maneuverings behind a high-profile homicide.
When the sister of a local cop is brutally murdered, the entire community of Schenectady, New York feels as if it has lost one of its own. By the time the mayor calls District Attorney Franklin Dorey to stress the importance of a speedy conviction, the DA – who imagines himself as mayor in the near future – is already well on his way prosecuting the most likely suspect.
Author S.A. Dymond, a practicing attorney himself, deftly balances an ensemble cast of police, perps and prosecutors throughout Exonerated. But most of the novel’s heft comes down to DA Dorey’s psychological and strategic tactics, including carefully calculated jury selection and the management of his various assistant district attorneys. Early on, the book is most riveting in passages when Dymond reveals the extent to DA Dorey’s ambition. In one telling scene, Dorey shuts the door to ponder possible future job titles: Mayor Franklin Dorey. Attorney General Franklin Dorey. Senator Franklin Dorey. Congressman Franklin Dorey. The result is a flesh-and-blood character whose fate we become completely invested in.
Enter John Upton, the best criminal defense attorney in upstate New York, and one of the few people who might stand in the way of Dorey’s ambition. Upton, a towering and chiseled physical specimen, is a master of subtle details. Dymond absolutely nails the impact of legal showmanship by repeatedly demonstrating how Upton uses his carefully crafted image to intimidate and impress (“Clearly, Upton had a least one suit for each day of the week, but Bill suspected he owned more. Many more”).
Just how far is Dorey willing to go to convict the accused? Is he on the right side of history, or is the suspect in fact innocent? The answer to those and other questions are well worth finding out.