Fresh Meat: Corrupt Practices by Robert Rotstein

Corrupt Practices by Robert RotsteinCorrupt Practices by Robert Rotstein is the first Parker Stern legal thriller (available June 4, 2013).

After the suicide of his mentor and legal partner, Harmon Cherry, Parker Stern’s shining career comes to a screeching halt as Parker is suddenly paralyzed whenever he is in a courtroom. Soon after, the law firm he works for falls apart, with each lawyer going his own way. Parker winds up teaching law to tiny classes and living an otherwise aimless life.

Then he receives a phone call from an ex-law partner, Rich Baxter. Baxter has gotten himself into some hot water with a powerful client: The Church of the Sanctified Assembly. He’s facing charges related to money laundering, embezzlement, and fraud. But Baxter’s problems don’t end there. FBI agents find false passports, almost half a million dollars in cash, and methamphetamines. Baxter insists he’s being set up—he swears that the Assembly is out to get him and it’s all related to the death of Parker’s mentor, Cherry. Against his better judgment, Parker agrees to take on the case.

On the day of his hearing, Baxter kills himself. But Parker isn’t convinced it’s a suicide.

Robert Rotstein’s Corrupt Practices is a multi-faceted introduction to the multi-faceted Parker Stern. Rotstein himself is an entertainment attorney and the details he brings to bear in this story reflect that experience. It’s an interesting twist in the legal genre to have the intricacies of a courtroom revealed, not through an articulate and eloquent attorney, but through the attorney’s inability to communicate.

The judge raises his hand to his ear. “Speak up, counsel.”

“Parker Stern for the defendant!” It’s a crackly shout. I hear a few titters behind me and feel my cheeks flush. I sense Latham’s eyes on me.

The judge raises his eyebrows over his half-size reading glasses. With many other lawyers, Cyrus Harvey’s short fuse would have ignited after this misstep, but he’s cutting me some slack. “we’re here for the arraignment hearing on the indictment. Is the defendant present in court?”

I look at Latham, who looks at me. I want to tell the judge that I don’t know where my client is, but I’m paralyzed, so I shake my head.

The judge squints at me. “Mr. Stern, does the defendant waive the right to be present?”

“He does not,” I say, and then force out the words, “Your Honor.” They come out as an afterthought, which makes me sound disrespectful.   

Parker’s courtroom awkwardness is offset by his knowledge of the law, which shows up in his classroom settings. He also surrounds himself with a cast of knowledgeable teammates. Rotstein has established a group of characters that will help an extended series. Since Parker has stage fright, he enlists his former partner, Deanna—a smart, tough woman who quit law to open her own café: the Barrista. Then he pulls in his law students, including Lovely Diamond (her real name), who has a certain finesse with witnesses.

“We know you’re a busy man, Mr. Garner,” Lovely says with a broad smile. “We don’t want to waste your time. But we’d like to hear it directly from you, if that’s okay. You know how cops are. You can’t always trust what’s on a police report, am I right?” I expected her just to listen, to act like the student she’s supposed to be. When I was at the firm I always handled interviews myself.

“You are right,” he says, as if her words have jumpstarted his heart. “And call me Dale.”

“And you can call me Lovely.”

“That’s your name?”

“My real name.”

He smiles at her. “Well, it fits.

“Why thank you, sir.” She tilts her head and actually blushes. Her eyes glimmer.

Rotstein’s chapters are direct, revealing corruption and murder in snapshots, which makes following the twists and turns of this novel—like Parker’s background as a child actor and his personal connections to the Church of the Sanctified Assembly—easy and entertaining.

Corrupt Practices is a gritty law story. Parker uses legal maneuvers and reasoning to gather information (even his personal stakes relate to his job). As, layer by layer, Parker peels away at the shell the Assembly has built around itself, the cultish organization becomes more dangerous and Parker finds himself in the same line of fire as his predecessors. It’s a fast paced and smart legal thriller. 

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Jenny Maloney is a reader and writer in Colorado. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in 42 Magazine, Shimmer, Skive, and others. She blogs about writing at Notes from Under Ground. If you like to talk books, reading, publishing, movies, or writing feel free to follow her on Twitter: @JennyEMaloney.

Read all posts by Jenny Maloney for Criminal Element.

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