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The Jury Master    by Robert Dugoni order for
Jury Master
by Robert Dugoni
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Don't be fooled by the title. The Jury Master is not a courtroom drama, even though it begins with one. But the San Francisco trial is only there to show the extent of the protagonist's charisma, and ability to sway others with words. Indeed, David Sloane is becoming less and less comfortable with his growing reputation for a run of wrongful-death civil trial victories. This last case, in particular, in which his corporate client's negligence contributed to a woman's brutal killing, has increased the frequency of his repeated nightmares of another woman's horrific demise.

The novel flits back and forth (in short, action-packed chapters) to show readers different sets of characters, weaving all these perspectives together as events unfold. We see young police officer Cooperman respond too quickly to a report on his scanner, and come to a sticky end, after discovering the supposed suicide of US President Robert Peak's personal friend and advisor, Joe Branick. Cooperman's engaging colleague, Detective Tom 'Mole' Mollia, gets his teeth into the case and won't let go, despite being warned off by White House counsel Rivers Jones (on the orders of tough chief of staff Parker Madsen) and by his own boss.

Another plot thread follows ex-CIA agent Charles Jenkins, who's lived in hiding for thirty years, and shares Sloane's nightmare. Now he's been tracked down by the daughter of an old friend, Alex Hart, who delivers an envelope full of 'bad memories' from Joe Branick. Unfortunately, more sinister trackers have also followed his trail. Gunfire soon erupts, sending Charles and Alex on the run, the bad guys constantly close on their heels. In the meantime, ex-Marine Sloane has returned home to find his apartment hit by a man-made hurricane. Soon afterwards, killers are on his trail too, leading to a series of thrilling close shaves, corpses, and a meeting in the Oval Office.

Eventually, Sloane, Jenkins and Mole unravel a plot involving a notorious Mexican revolutionary, an anonymous military unit called Talon Force that operated in Vietnam, an oil agreement under negotiation between the United States and Mexico, the mystery of Sloane's own past, and the key to his nightmares. Along the way, Sloane finds himself, and makes life and career changes. The Jury Master is an unusual and gripping thriller.

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