Reckless Homicide

Reckless Homicide

Journal Issue: 
Column Name: 
Journal Article: 
Elegant and exciting. An unusual combination for an action-suspense novel, but Ira Genberg's first work of fiction is both. His writing style is as pure as that in the first two books by Scott Turow—the author of One L, Burden of Proof and Presumed Innocent—and in John Grisham's A Time to Kill. The following excerpt is an example of the purity and elegance of style and imagery: "The gym is devoid of all but the scorching heat, which falls from the roof, shoots up from the floor, drips off the metal rims. As aspiring composers are uplifted by Mozart, Charlie and I are inspired by the sounds of leather bouncing against wood, touching glass and swishing through nets of rope." If the reader cannot accept imagery such as that to be as tangible as the computerized virtual reality found in some computer games, all bets are off.

However, the importance of the book transcends its excellent imagery. The story is one of importance for all professionals to ponder.

Michael Ashmore is one of the founding partners of a successful firm that represents the airline that employs his brother, Charlie. When Charlie is terminated for failing a drug screen, Michael tries to get him rehired, since Charlie is part of the reason Michael's firm got the airline as a client in the first place. Michael feels indebted but is torn with his responsibility as counsel for the airline.

Charlie retakes the drug test and fails it a second time, but passes it the third time. Michael is aware of the second failure but does not disclose any test but the final one, which shows Charlie as drug-free. Before you jump to the conclusion that Michael should have had no question but to disclose the second test, there are mitigating circumstances that made the decision understandably difficult. Nevertheless, through Michael's efforts, Charlie was rehired. Hooked so far?

Two months later, Charlie is piloting a plane that crashes, killing all on board. An autopsy shows that Charlie's body was loaded with enough phenobarbital to cause him to crash the plane, and ultimately, the crash is determined to have been caused by pilot error.

The circumstances surrounding Charlie's rehiring by the airline are investigated, and Michael's suppression of the failed drug test is discovered. The airline fires his firm, his partners terminate his employment with the firm and he is charged with "reckless homicide," a new cause of action that he himself had caused to be recognized when he won a lawsuit earlier in his career. The irony is perfect because the case in which he successfully promoted the cause of action was one for the wrongful death of Charlie's daughter when she was incinerated in a fire caused by perfume a manufacturer knew to be flammable but failed to disclose it.

The story is emotionally charged, complex in its structure but so well-written that it flows naturally and without confusing the reader. Genberg also neglects almost no dimension of life, injecting, for example, spiritual aspects of the characters' personalities as well as the normal secular ones. The plot is fascinating, and the action natural but power-packed. The novel is more than a good read; it is good literature.

What is the outcome of the trial? Is Michael Ashmore convicted of having caused the deaths of those who died in the plane crash because of reckless disregard for the truth of his brother's condition? The answer is "yes." Now you know the outcome of the trial, but do you know the outcome of the novel? Pick it up and give it a weekend to answer the question. You will enjoy it and learn about the interchange between commitment to family, professional ethics and duty to society. By reading the novel, you will certainly have done more than killed time recklessly.

Journal Date: 
Tuesday, December 1, 1998