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Act of God    by Susan Sloan order for
Act of God
by Susan Sloan
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2002 (2002)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Act of God begins from the point of view of a terrorist making a bomb in a Seattle garage. We see him planting it and setting the timer. The author then leaves that hanging to visit with her main character, Dana McAuliffe, who 'looked far more like a high school cheerleader than an accomplished litigator approaching forty.' Dana is a driven professional, divorced and now in a wonderful, sustaining relationship with an understanding and supportive symphony violinist, Sam.

The bomb goes off. The author shows it to us documentary style, with previews of what was going on in the Seattle Family Services Center, 'Hill House', just before the explosion. It kills over two hundred, including daycare children and newborns. We see into the lives of those killed or injured, and the impact on their loved ones. Dana is horrified by the event and resists when pressed by a senior partner of her law firm to represent the young naval officer arrested for the bombing (it turns out that his wife aborted their child at Hill House without his knowledge).

Dana meets twenty-five-year-old Corey Dean Latham. He is not what she expected and she surprises herself by taking the high profile case, which pits her against an old friend as prosecutor. Of course, extremists on both sides of the abortion question come out of the woodwork and attempt to influence events. What raises this story above the usual legal thriller is not only the tough issue which it addresses, but also the depth of characterization - from the judge and jurors to the victims and the street person who witnessed the killer. Susan Sloan fills in all her characters, even the minor ones, so that the reader sees real people through her prose.

This case has it all - media intrusions into the players' lives, surprising revelations from investigators, illegal wheeling and dealing behind the scenes, mob scenes and courtroom action, risk to the protagonist's personal life - with a true mystery at its core. If Latham didn't do it (and the reader is inclined to follow Dana's lead in believing in his innocence) who did? None of my hypotheses were correct and the ending was a big surprise to me; the kind that's hard to see coming, but very fitting in retrospect. Act of God is an absorbing and thoughtful thriller - don't miss it!

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