Thursday, November 29, 2007

BROKEN TRUST by William P. Wood

Timothy Nash is a prosecuting attorney turned Superior Court judge in the Northern California city of Santa Maria. He is a successful man, but he has never been able to escape the long shadow of his father, the respected and honorable judge Jack Nash. When a federal corruption task force asks Tim to help smoke out a few Santa Maria judges who are allegedly corrupt, Nash readily agrees. He does it for a few reasons, the most significant: He thinks his undercover work in the operation will finally separate him from his father’s reputation.

It doesn’t hurt that Tim is at a crossroads in his life. His wife left him, and took their young son to Los Angeles. He is lonely, discouraged, and the prospect of doing something different, maybe even important pushes Nash into action. He quickly jumps into the investigation and agrees to approach a few judges with offers of money to make a court case disappear. It doesn’t seem to bother him that the targets are his friends—he has known many of the judges he approaches since he was a child.

Broken Trust was a pleasant surprise. The plotting was swift—it kept me turning the pages long after bedtime more than once. The characters, while not developed much beyond cardboard, served the plot. I found myself wondering how the protagonist could so easily betray his friends, but I never doubted his motivations. The main storyline was complemented nicely by three nifty side-plots—two undercover Santa Maria detectives, a murder trial in Nash’s courtroom, and Nash’s personal life. They added to the overall storyline and its suspense, and helped build tension between the personal Nash and the public Nash.

I enjoyed Broken Trust more than I had expected, and if you enjoy a good legal thriller—anything from Scott Turow to Steve Martini to John Grisham—you’ll have a good time with it to.

Broken Trust was originally published in 1991 under the title Court of Honor. It was re-released by Leisure Books in February 2006; Leisure has republished several of William P. Wood’s early novels, and a couple originals over the last few years. It was adapted into a made-for-cable movie—for TNT, I think—in 1995 starring Tom Selleck, Elizabeth McGovern, and William Atherton; and directed by Geoffrey Sax. I remember watching the film adaptation on VHS in the late-90s, but my only memory of its quality is: I enjoyed it. I wouldn’t mind finding this title on DVD and watching it again—heck, it couldn’t be too bad. It has Tom Selleck in it.

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