5 out of 5 stars
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The Dinosaur Lawyer by Adam Van Susteren
A Courtroom Page-Turner
Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m old-fashioned. I am reminded of the hit television series, starring Raymond Burr as Perry Mason, the defense lawyer created by author Erle Stanley Gardner. It ran for nine years from 1957 to 1966 and continued forever after as reruns. Perry never lost a court case and Hamilton Burger, the District Attorney, never won one against Perry. During the trial, Della Street, Perry’s secretary, and Paul Drake, his private investigator frequently handed Perry some last-minute evidence that broke the case. I loved it when the one-hour show climaxed with a courtroom scene in which clever questioning and cross-examination proved his client’s innocence and frequently caused the guilty one to break down on the witness stand and entrap himself.
It was a happy day, indeed, when I discovered Adam Van Susteren, a new (to me) author who can write a courtroom thriller in the tradition of Gardner and Perry Mason, updating it to the current age while bringing in story-lines based on statistics from thousands of centuries ago. After I finished reading his book, The Dinosaur Lawyer, I ran right out and bought another one by the same author.
Nicknamed by the press The Dinosaur Lawyer, Aaron Baker takes on the defense of a client in a civil defamation-of-character case. To do so, Baker sets out to prove that dinosaurs never roamed the earth, and that they were “invented” by greedy museums and other entrepreneurs out to make names for themselves.
In all honesty, Aaron gives himself very little chance of convincing nine of the eleven jurors that the legend of dinosaurs is all a fraud. But his client is a billionaire and the money offered is just too good to turn down.
There is a certain amount of drama and dialog between Aaron and his wife, Tina, a successful surgeon, as well as his client, the billionaire, Roman Aristov. But, a great deal of the book is the courtroom drama. Van Susteren knows his subject. We are treated to a detailed description of the court room, its procedure and all the proper legal terms.
The author manages to keep our interest as he describes the scene when Aaron questions nearly all the thirty-six potential jurors until they are narrowed down to eleven sitting jurors and two alternates. We meet the mathematician, the salesman, the teacher and others. Aaron shares with us the reasons his will choose or reject each one, predicting their behaviors. We meet them again in the jury room, and—you guessed it—they are acting true to form.
The plaintiff’s lawyer presents only one witness, Marcus Aristov, the plaintiff himself, whom Aaron rips apart on cross-examination.
Somehow Aaron senses his client is holding something back.
Then it is the defense’s turn. One by one we are treated to expert testimony in such detail that the jury threatens to doze off. And yet, we, the reader cannot put the book down. Thirty-two fascinating exhibits take us through the history of dinosaurs, their discovery and spurious invention, as the claim goes. Van Susteran has done his homework. Without boring us silly he manages to teach us the origins of animals with such tongue-twisting names as Megalosaurus, Hylaeosaurus and the Iguanoden. (Forgive me if I misspelled those names.) Read the book and you will get it. Five stars out of five.
Dorothy May Mercer, author/publisher
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