Sleight of Hand
An old client of Frank Holloway's comes to see him for help. After a criminal start, Wally Lederer has made a living as a pickpocket - on stage as an entertainer. He and his wife Meg have recently returned to Oregon to settle in his retirement. But now is he accused of stealing a golden artifact from a man's home when they visited one night. He says he didn't do it - wouldn't ruin his life now. Since he no longer practices law, Frank takes Wally and Meg to his daughter, Barbara.
She advises the Lederers that there is nothing to do for now. They can't prove they don't have the missing artifact. Then the man who accused them, car dealership owner, Jay Wilkins, is killed in his own home. Because of the artifact Wally is now suspected of returning the artifact and killing the man when his apology wouldn't be accepted.
Barbara agrees to represent Wally Lederer. She believes his story, then learns more that puts her in a quandary. While they don't know how Jay Wilkins was killed or who did it, they know more about the night the man died. Barbara is sworn to secrecy or the couple will lie to deny the truth they've told her. The more Barbara learns the more she is tied up. No matter which way she goes, if she reveals her knowledge someone will be hurt and the future destroyed for one family or another.
Her defense is the fact that all the evidence is circumstantial. Will it be enough? Can she live with the withheld knowledge? In her own personal life, she starts questioning assumptions she has held most of her life.
Again Kate Wilhelm delivers a strong novel about Barbara Holloway and a tricky murder case. The murderer is known by half way through Sleight of Hand. Instead, this tale is about how Barbara handles what she knows and her own sense of self. As a reader I knew what would happen in court - Barbara always wins in these books. But that didn't lessen the impact of her court presentation.
Wilhelm uses Sleight of Hand as a showcase for the tricks lawyers use in court when their case is shaky on evidence. The district attorney is certain Wally Lederer in guilty, but knows his case is circumstantial. Barbara uses them as well - which is often seen throughout the Barbara Holloway novels.
Sleight of Hand doesn't have any suspenseful, danger fraught scenes. At times it seems a bit slow yet the reader can't let the book go. This story is one for the mind.
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