The Perfect Witness

'The Perfect Witness'

by Barry Siegel

Ballantine, $24

"The Perfect Witness," authored by Los Angeles Times reporter Barry Siegel, is a haunting thriller that explores difficult ethical issues with artfully drawn characters caught up in a tangle that pulls even tighter as the story progresses.

Set in La Graciosa, a small coast town in central California, the story revolves around two lawyers, Greg Monarch and Ira Sullivan. The two used to be partners, but Monarch makes a critical and deadly error in a death-penalty case that forever haunts him, and Sullivan drops out of the practice of law to dabble in drugs. When he is arrested one day for murder of the local postmaster, and can't remember where he was, only Monarch can save him from the chair. But first he must confront his own ghosts, the ambitious and ruthless prosecuting attorney, and the state's key witness - Sandy Polson, a beautiful pathological liar.

Siegel provokes his characters to explore the boundaries of ethics in pursuit of justice. How far can a lawyer go to present potential false evidence by a "perfect" witness to undermine a conviction achieved by that same witness' false testimony? Siegel's exploration of these thought-provoking questions - while telling a cliffhanger of a story - is a rare feat and outstanding entertainment.

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