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Nora Ray, a DA in northern California, has just been called upon to investigate a recent police killing , which she believes may be a government cover-up, and she calls in Special Prosecutor and old friend Luke Garrison to help her find out. The case centers around a high-profile raid conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, in which one of the biggest drug-dealing gangs in the country is uncovered and its notoriously reclusive leader, Reyaldo Juarez, is shot and killied—despite direct orders from the U.S. Attorney General to take him alive at any cost and detain him as a possible witness in other drug cases…
Luke Garrison, a former D.A. who has abandoned the problematic morality of convincing juries to send criminals to the gas chamber, first appeared in The Disappearance, in which his old mentor wanted Luke to take on a sensational murder case that had the entire country abuzz. In Above the Law, J.F. Freedman continues to apply a successful formula: reluctant hero takes on a case that nobody, but nobody, wants. This time out, Nora Ray, the D.A. of Muir County, the least populated and poorest county in California—and a friend from Luke’s law school days—asks Luke to help her investigate a recent police killing, which she believes may be a monumental government coverup.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has swaggered, guns blazing, into the forests near the White Horse reservation, intent on raiding the fortress-like retreat of Reynaldo Juarez, the notoriously reclusive leader of one of the biggest drug-dealing gangs in the country. Janet Reno herself has determined that he must be taken alive, so when the raid is blown, four DEA agents are killed, and Juarez himself dies after being taken into custody, questions and recriminations are par for the course. Nora and Luke must negotiate local hostility and pitched interdepartmental acrimony as they slowly unravel the tangled stories that surround the fiasco. But as he casts his investigative gaze from the poverty of the nearby reservation to the depths of the L.A. ghettos, Luke may be dangerously blind to the nearness of immediate treachery and deceit.
Freedman’s strength is Luke’s weakness: plagued by fears of failure, haunted by his decision to put job before family, Luke is an appealingly flawed narrator. While Freedman’s engaging voice may not completely conceal his occasionally turgid prose, or his tendency to rely on coincidence as the shortest distance between two conundrums, it should be a sufficient siren’s call to his loyal fans and those looking for a legal procedural with a conscience. —Kelly Flynn
Amazon.com Editorial Review
Former DA Luke Garrison is back in another tricky and exciting Freedman thriller (after The Disappearance). Now a defense attorney in Santa Barbara, he gets a surprise call from an old law school friend, Nora Ray. As the DA in remote Muir County in Northern California, Ray wants him to investigate the murder of drug overlord Reynaldo Juarez, which occurred during a violent and botched DEA raid on the Juarez compound in Ray’s district. Garrison finds it hard to believe that anyone cares about who murdered the drug lord. But Ray thinks the DEA is conspiring to cover up something else, especially as they had orders to capture Juarez so he could be detained as a witness in other investigations. Reluctantly, Garrison agrees to be hired as her special prosecutor. The key players in the case are a twisted and intriguing lot: mysterious, needy, possibly dangerous Ray, attracted to the attractive prosecutor; elderly local sheriff Miller, exiled to Muir County long ago by the FBI and cut out of the DEA raid; Miller’s deputy, Wayne Bearpaw, the liaison to local Native Americans who are trying desperately to haul themselves out of poverty; and federal agent Sterling Jerome, arrogant leader of the drug bust. As the case unfolds, Garrison uncovers the workings of Juarez’s West Coast drug enterprise, the movement of large sums of money, startling passions and connections that go deep (including a long-ago link between Jerome and Juarez). Finally, as past and present converge, it becomes clear that nearly everyone has been hiding a secret. Though in need of some editorial tightening, Freedman’s complexly plotted mystery builds to a surprising and satisfying climax.