"Tom" can't remember much about the last seven years of his life, but he has figured out his name is really Lucas and recalls that he has a family in Oregon. Two things happen on the day Lucas finally returns to his wife, Nell: A young woman's body is seen floating down the river and Lucas is shot dead at the very moment he first sees his wife. After examination of the available evidence, local police decide that Lucas killed the woman and Nell killed her husband.
Barbara Holloway is staying with a friend in Arizona, trying to figure out what to do with her life. She left the law five years earlier in disgust over some of the behind-the-scenes deals and compromises made between defenders and prosecutors. But when her father, Frank, a semi-retired defense lawyer, talks her into returning home, she reluctantly takes on the Nell Kendricks case.
Death Qualified is a complex, multilayered courtroom drama and is the first in the Barbara Holloway series. The novel is told from several points of view and takes the reader from university campuses to a close-knit community in the coastal mountains about thirty minutes from Eugene.
Wilhelm's characterizations and descriptions of the landscape are detailed, making it easy to care about Nell, Barbara, and the other principal players. Unfortunately, the plot is a bit too all-encompassing: There are many more details about chaos theory and perception research than seem necessary. The red herring aspect of the Kendricks case takes up a good percentage of the novel and doesn't prevent the reader from figuring out who done it. Furthermore, the two surprises that occur at the end of the book are fairly predictable and expected.
The audiobook was read by Anna Fields, one of my favorite narrators. The Blackstone audio production was slightly flawed in that several times a paragraph would be repeated for no apparent reason. However, Fields is always a pleasure to listen to, and her performance added greatly to my experience with the book.
Although Death Qualified was not for me, the Barbara Holloway series is very popular, and the eleventh novel was published in 2008. Kate Wilhelm has a website, where you can learn more about her and the wide range of works she has published.
Published by Mira, 2002 (first published 1991)
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