Tough and street-smart, a principled rebel against an establishment he has always scorned, Dan Lazar has risen from the working class to become one of Philadelphia s top criminal defenders. But now divorced and burned out, Dan is ready to call it quits.
On the surface he would seem to have nothing in common with Susan Boelter, the beautiful and patrician wife of Peter Boelter, who heads the city's dominant newspaper and one of its most powerful families. But when Peter deserts her and files for divorce, moving to seize everything that is precious to her, including custody of their thirteen-year-old daughter, Susan turns to a reluctant Dan for help. Suddenly, Peter is found dead, and Susan becomes the prime suspect in his murder. Driven by his love for her and by an inner need to defend someone in whose innocence he can truly believe, Dan investigates and soon discovers a maze of conflicting evidence and of growing doubts and mystery about the woman he thought he knew and loved. And he realizes that the truth he desperately seeks depends on finding the answer to a question of proof.
“Did you learn anything at the morgue?” she began.
“I’m not a forensic pathologist.”
“But you must have gotten a sense of why the medical examiner thinks Peter was murdered.”
Dan nodded. “The injury doesn’t exactly fit the step they found his head lying on, and the abrasions on his skin occurred after he died.” Dan kept to himself the minimal bruising on the brain; for the time being, she did not need to know that what was human and unique about Peter had been removed for study and replaced before burial.
“You mean he thinks Peter was already dead when he fell down the stairs," she said quietly.
“Or nearly dead. His report also questions whether someone tumbling down steps would have hit his head with enough force to inflict such a deep wound.”
“What do you think?”
Dan shrugged. “If you’re put on trial, you get your own expert
who’s willing to refute the findings.”
She was insistent. “That’s not what I’m asking, Dan. What do you think? Do you think I killed Peter?”
“I’ve got a lot more digging to do before I’ll know enough to make that kind of judgement.”
“No!” she cried out. “Not evidence or judgements! In your heart, Dan, in your most secret heart . . . do you believe I killed my husband?”
“That’s not a fair question, Susan. It’s not even a relevant question for a lawyer. It doesn’t matter what my opinion is. The only thing that matters is what a jury ends up thinking.”
The orange flecks in her hazel eyes flared, as if mirroring the red light. “It matters to me! I want my lawyer to believe with every fiber of his being that I’m innocent.”
She was forcing him to confront an issue he had only half thought through all day. Crickets nagged the long silence until he spoke again.
“Susan,” he finally decided, “I can’t represent you.”
“You can fight the suspension, isn’t that what you told me?"
“It’s not just the suspension.”
He peered upward into the concavity at the center of the rotunda roof, where the eight beams met at their highest point, as if the reason lurked within that recess. She was owed the truth, he understood, and not evasion. His gaze lowered.
“I can’t represent you because I’m in love with you.” . . .
“I love you, too, Dan.” She leaned toward him, the burning eyes consuming him. “Oh, God, I wish we were in some little room locked away alone right now.”
“Damn it, I don’t want to be in love!” he cried out. “There’s no point to it, and no room for it. Loving you complicates my life. It’s a mistake for both of us.”
He saw hurt in her expression now, but hurried on. “Susan, the lawyer who defends you has got to be logical and objective. He can’t have personal feelings that get in the way of his thinking.”
“I didn’t kill Peter. That’s the truth. I want a lawyer who believes that and who cares as much for saving me as he would for saving himself. It can’t be just another case to him. My life is at stake.”
“Susan, try to understand. A trial isn’t about truth, it’s about winning. It’s a contest to sway a jury, those twelve people. Everybody says they’re after the truth, but they’re really after something that will sound true—that will be plausible, whether for yea or nay—to those twelve people. But the actual truth is coincidental. By the end
of a trial, if the lawyers on both gsides have done a good job, the truth is battered beyond recognition or so disguisedyg in new clothes that no one can really be sure what it is anymore.”
“But that has nothing to do with our loving each other.”
“Love is about truth! It can’t survive without truth. We strip ourselves down to who we really are for the people we love—or as close as we can let ourselves come to it—so that we can trust each other. Anything less is a ruse; it’s a maneuver, play-acting.”
Smiling, she reached out to touch his face.
He tried to ignore her touch. "Susan, trust is fragile. Subjecting it
to the ploys and deceptions that pass for omissions, to all the tactics that go into winning a trial, can end up destroying that love.”
“I don’t believe it. I refuse to believe it.”
“Every client lies. If not outright lies, then murky areas the client tries to keep that way. During the trial you’ll do and say anything to save yourself—it’s your sole priority, and that’s natural. You’ll cover things up to me, to the judge, to the jury. Everything you’ve vowed to me—all that ‘truth’—could get shredded into confetti.”
“I’m innocent. I have nothing to fear,” she said fervently. She was staring into his eyes, measuring his love against hers.
He did not reply.
Her eyes turned bleak. “If you loved me, you’d believe me, you would fight for me.”
When he still did not reply, she stood up to return to the house.
“First Peter abandoned me,” she said, “now you have, too.”
A Gripping Drama!
A gripping drama that rivals anything by John Grisham, A Question of Proof is a perfectly-crafted murder mystery that takes the reader in the darkest places of the human mind casting doubt one every character who appears on the scene. From the narcissistic victim to his paramours and relatives, this is a cast of characters not soon to be forgotten ...or second guessed. If you love a great read, you'll gobble this up! Great book!
By Anna Maria Prezio
If you love a great murder mystery, A Question of Proof is for you! Rife with crazies of every ilk, the tumultuous novel takes you on a ride to remember. I haven't found a book that so thoroughly fools the reader in years. I thought I had this figured 4 different times and each time another suspect caught my attention and threw me for a loop. I never guessed the ending - terrific read!
By Kathryn Ross
Couldn't Put It Down!
Joseph Amiel created a delicious cocktail of greed, betrayal, murder and, oh yes, sex. I was up until 4:00 this a.m. to finish this book because I could not stand the suspense of "who done it" any longer. In this well-crafted novel you won't find out until the very end. The michigas of the cast of fascinating characters makes for a delightful read and the social/historic background Mr. Amiel manages to add, without slowing down the action, gives them solidity and dimension. Can't wait until the Kindle release of his next novel.
By Ivan Farkas