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Book Review: Accusation

Christian Storm

Fiction writer and trial attorney Paul Batista knows how to tap into contemporary issues. In his latest legal thriller, Accusation, his sixth novel and the third in his Raquel Rematti crime series, he takes on the #Me Too movement corruption in the Police Department and FBI and the role of social media in influencing the public about innocence or guilt. Add in some loving lines about the beauties of Central Park and at the very end, a surprising plot twist and you have a tale that will temporarily distract you from related crime in the real world.

Women dominate the action in Accusation. Females with smarts and ambition who play high stakes power games, except that a high priced lawyer the “icily elegant” Raquel Rematti seems to have a conscience as well as a passion for the law. She's hesitant at first about taking on the case of the handsome Puerto Rican movie star Aaron Julian, who out of the blue has been accused of sexual harassment by several women. He's married to a famous black one named singer VEDA his third wife and the accusations come as a shocker to him and to her.

Indirectly he also falls under the suspicion in the murder of a well known attorney Victor Tabnik, who was representing the accusers in the wake of his highly successful prosecution of predator priests.

When the narrative opens it's 2am and Aaron's home phone rings. It's his longtime manager, agent and good friend Larry Jenkins, who's just heard that six women have told The New York Post that Aaron sexually harassed them and prevented them from having roles in his films. Aaron is stunned so as VEDA who adores him. They live happily and well at The Dakota apartments in Manhattan. Meanwhile, Victor Chapnick is all over TV and the Internet declaring his intention to rake Aaron over the coals.

Next chapter, a loving tribute to The Dakota and to “glorious” Central Park West where Aaron goes jogging every day and we're Tabnik's sexually mutilated body will soon turn up in a remote section of the park. Aaron persists in pursuing Raquel to take on his case. He charms her with his crafty skill and humor and eventually wins. The feisty skeptical Raquel will do it, if he follows her advice and doesn't lie to her. It's obvious that despite some doubts about him, she likes courtroom challenge. She's without any current romance in her life and though she's a solid pro and not getting involved with clients, she does find Aaron attractive. Game on.

A media celebrity who enjoys legal theater Batista knows how to set his courtroom scenes – smart back-and-forth dialogue between prosecution and defense with suspense growing as to which side has the best advantage, the best witnesses, the jury’s sympathy. One doesn't go to a Batista novel expecting sophisticated characterization, but in Accusation Batista manages some subtle complications, as Raquel’s history as a prosecutor shows how good she is and how much she enjoys sparring with her adversaries. Though she's principled, she knows that American jurisprudence requires her to serve her client over even Justice and Truth.

She also knows that these can conflict. In this regard Accusation suggests that the #Me Too movement is more complex than many people think.

And so Batista is timely novel may prompt a deeper understanding of criteria that go into leveling charges of sexual misconduct and proving a defense. I'm Joan Baum.

Joan Baum is a recovering academic from the City University of New York, who spent 25 years teaching literature and writing. She covers all areas of cultural history but particularly enjoys books at the nexus of the humanities and the sciences.