Legal Thriller: Undertow, by Sydney Bauer

Undertow (David Cavanaugh, #1)

Cliff hanger

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We’re all used to hearing about lawyers playing “the race card”, but in Undertow, the typical scenario is reversed. Attorney Rayna Martin, who fights for the rights of the disadvantaged, sponsors a boating party for her daughter Keesha’s 16th birthday. Only three girls have been invited, and only one, Christina Haynes is white. Christina is the daughter of high powered U.S. senator, and when she drowns, Ms. Martin is accused of murdering her, abandoning Christina so she could rescue the three Afro-American girls.

Because the reader knows from the get-go that this was a tragic accident, all the suspense comes from the legal maneuvers of the Assistant DA and the defense counsel. Senator Haynes brings all of his awesome influence to bear to make certain that Rayna Martin pays the price for the death of his daughter. The underdog is David Cavanaugh, the defense attorney who has no doubt that Rayna is innocent, but who has very scant hard evidence to counter the prosecution’s incessant onslaught.

This novel, not surprisingly, has its strengths and weaknesses. Among its strengths is the race card reversal, with the person of color accused of racial prejudice. It was interesting to see how life’s prosaic events can be twisted to reflect racism rather than altruism. Among the weaker features, some of the characters are “types”, i.e, the idealistic young lawyer, the corrupt politician, the child who rejects her parents’ hypocrisy. Also, like many of the entries in this genre, the resolution of this case depends upon some pretty incredible twists. Nevertheless, author Bauer manages very well to create a cliff-hanger of a novel, in which the reader roots whole-heartedly for the good guys against the irredeemable bad guys. Sometimes you need a victory like this one, you know what I mean?


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