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The Confession    by Sheldon Siegel order for
by Sheldon Siegel
Order:  USA  Can
Putnam, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Ex-priest Mike Daley, and his ex-spouse Rosie Fernandez continue their law partnership as they defend (pro bono) Father Ramon Aguirre, who is accused of murdering a parishioner. Maria Concepcion's body was found in a tub of water, wrists slashed, and set up to look like suicide. The story is written in the first person from Mike Daley's point of view.

Attorney Concepcion became well-known for successfully settling abuse cases against the Roman Catholic Church (her latest pending case involved a sexual-improprieties suit filed against the San Francisco archdiocese). The substantial evidence stacked against Father Aguirre includes his fingerprints on a knife, on the victim, and at the scene, as well as a witness to his leaving Maria's dwelling. Added to the conundrum is an established romantic relationship between Ramon and Maria prior to his entering the seminary. The defense team establishes possible motives for other suspects, including Maria's ex-husband, who is bitter about the divorce, and her ex-boyfriend Eduardo Lopez (whose vengeful wife Vicky is suing for divorce). Investigation also reveals the church's law firm's misuse of financial accounts.

The Confession features a timely premise in a fast-paced read. The strength of the novel lies in Siegel's move-right-along writing style, which features Mike's thoughts preceding dialog, as in 'I watch the second hand on the clock go round twice before he speaks again. 'What do we do now?'.' The author prefaces each chapter with a brief quote from the media about the case, e.g. 'Criminal defense work is like putting together a puzzle. You study each piece of evidence and try to find ways to cast doubt on the prosecution's case. If you overlook something important, your client is in trouble. --Rosita Fernandez, Boalt Hall Monthly.' I enjoyed playful characters like Terence 'The Terminator', a former boxer and parolee; and 'Fluffy' the Doberman, as well as the ongoing friendly relationship amongst divorced Rosie, Mike, and their two children.

I was disappointed that Rosie played such a minute role throughout the story, and also felt that more interaction with archdiocese staff and parishioners would have added depth. That being said, my verdict is to judge The Confession guilty of providing an enjoyable, persuasive read.

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