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Well, Claire soon finds out, and what she discovers will leave her stunned. After Tom's arrest, it also will result in her heading up his defense team in a militarily court. The courtroom drama is intriguing and serves to keep the reader engaged, as will the events that intervene in an attempt to derail the defense. The problem with the book is not with the plot, but rather the one dimensional characters and the fact that, Claire, the main protagonist, is simply not that likable.
Still, the book is a fast paced thriller that will keep the reader turning the pages. It's a perfect book for a long airplane ride or a cruise. It is pure entertainment, nothing more, nothing less.
HIGH CRIMES by Joseph Finder is an above average legal thriller that's been compared favorably with the 1992 courtroom drama, A Few Good Men.
In HIGH CRIMES, high-octane defense attorney and Harvard Law professor Claire Chapman finds herself defending Tom, her husband of four years, against a government charge of mass murder for allegedly slaughtering eighty-seven unarmed El Salvadorian villagers thirteen years earlier when Tom, then known as Sergeant Ron Kubik, was a member of a black-ops Army Special Forces unit on a mission to eliminate the leftist guerrillas who'd recently killed seven Americans. Then Kubik deserted and disappeared from the Fed's radar. Until now.
Of course, Claire had no knowledge of her husband's previous life. And don't those super-secret guv'mint goon squads just leave behind the peskiest loose ends?
This novel, published in 1998 and one of the author's earliest, is, in retrospect, a courtroom potboiler that might otherwise get lost in the multitude of legal thrillers published before and since if it wasn't for a particularly unexpected ending that would seem to, and did, lend the story to a Big Screen adaptation (High Crimes). Nothing like a lucrative film deal, eh Joe?
My admiration for the book's concluding plot twist does not, however, negate the fact that it positively screamed reminder of the Music Box, an excellent and powerful 1989 film starring Jessica Lange as a Chicago lawyer compelled by familial love and devotion to defend her aging father from a government charge of war crimes committed during World War II when he was ostensibly commander of a Hungarian fascist death squad that murdered Jews and Gypsies. Indeed, HIGH CRIMES reminded me so much of MUSIC BOX in broad outline that I feel compelled to knock a star off the former by a niggling sense of a lack of originality. But, it's still a pretty good read.
Fifteen years after HIGH CRIMES first appeared, there's a certain technological quaintness about it that's endearing. Claire might have found Google to be enormously handy, if it had existed back then. And she has a cell phone with an extendable antenna. Cool! Where can I get one of those?
Lucky for him, his wife, Claire, is a lawyer. It turns out Tom used to be in the military. Claire learns the rules of the military tribunal to try and save her husband.
Not only was Tom living a double life, things are not as they once seemed to be. Without adding spoilers, I'd like to say I found the ending to be very predictable...I was just waiting for it to happen. This was not one of Finder's better works. However, it also isn't a terrible read if you have time to kill on a bus, plane, train, or car ride.
It's 1996. Tom Chapman is a loving, family man who runs his own investment firm in Boston and lives with his adoring wife, Claire, better known as Claire Heller, a Harvard Law School professor with a reputation for merciless performances in the courtroom. Then, all too soon, we discover that Tom Chapman doesn't appear to be the man he says he is. The U.S. Army claims his true name is Ronald Kubik, a former Master Sergeant in the Special Forces, and proceeds to put him on trial for the 1983 massacre of 87 innocent civilians in a village in El Salvador in reprisal for guerrillas' murder of four Americans in the capital. Claire (of course!) moves to defend him in his court-martial.
The suspense in this cleverly plotted and tautly written novel circles around whether Tom is really Ron and whether he really was responsible for the massacre. Finder skillfully keeps the reader guessing nearly until the end. Along the way he works in an unflattering picture of U.S. foreign and military policy in Vietnam as well as Central America and of the stifling bureaucracy in the Pentagon. His characters, every one believable, include former and current Army attorney from the JAG Corps, the Chief of Staff of the Army, a shadowy CIA agent, and a whiny six-year-old girl.
High Crimes was the fifth of the nine thrillers Joseph Finder has written since 1991. He was previously (1983) the author of a sensational expose of multimillionaire oilman Armand Hammer's longstanding ties to the KGB.