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Cost of Deceit
LA Sheriff Lieutenant Max Cort is on trial for killing his wife, but how do you try a murder without a body? This high-profile case has local TV stations scrambling for legal commentary and one invites law professor Jake Clearwater to handle the nightly updates on the hearing. Jake recently gained fame for defending a convicted murderer, gaining him a retrial, exposing the real killer, and getting his client off and released from prison. Early in the trial, Jake realizes it's not going the prosecution's way. First, he makes a few comments on TV that catch the District Attorney's attention. Then, with a deadlocked jury, the DA invites Clearwater to talk and asks him to head the retrial team. But Jake has some special requirements before accepting, including services not usually part of the DA's office repertoire but are reluctantly granted. Jake and his team dig deeper into Lieutenant Cort, questioning and confronting both the suspect's alibi and the victim's closest confidants while working with sheriff department investigators to gather more evidence. As the new trial unfolds, Jake becomes immersed in the muck of Cort's life—obsessive ambition and unbridled brutality. With an expensive, high-power attorney, the defense continues to claim the wife ran away. Can Jake overcome the barriers and win a conviction? Cost of Deceit is the second book in the award-winning Jake Clearwater Legal Thriller series.
Caldwell captivates with a riveting courtroom drama set in Los Angeles, the followup to the first in the Jake Clearwater series, Cost of Arrogance. After a sensational trial results in a hung jury, the district attorney begs Clearwater to return to his past vocation as a prosecutor to help a new jury reach a verdict. Ex-Playboy model Christie Cort, wife of ambitious and abusive police Lieutenant Max Cort, disappeared two years ago, and authorities never recovered her body. Jake must face off against a charismatic star defense attorney. From interviewing potential jurors to persuading terrified witnesses to take the stand, Jake must rely on every clever courtroom maneuver he knows to bring an allegedly wicked man to justice.

Caldwell, a professor at Pepperdine School of Law, sweeps the reader into the artistry and theater that expert lawyers perform in high-stakes cases, showcasing their every calculated gesture and nuanced glance at the jurors. After taking in the compelling details of the initial, unresolved case, readers will applaud Jake’s decision to join the fray and the chance to bear witness as he plots and drinks coffee alongside his investigator, jury consultant, and, outside the courtroom, his best friend and lover, Lisa St. Marie. Caldwell’s witty narration keeps the tone light and relatable despite the dark subject and urgent stakes, and the prose is crisp and polished throughout. Visits to California tourist destinations like Moonstone Beach and Hearst Castle spice the narrative.

The text is peppered with quick, fascinating “trial tips,” which clarify concepts such as voir dire and the finer points of effective cross-examination, matching Jake’s professorial persona. As Jake wades through the case, overcoming hurdles such as persuading a salty judge to admit dicey evidence, Caldwell gradually raises the tension level until the plot verges on thriller. Fans of courtroom drama will savor this peek into the inner workings of an attorney’s mind while puzzling over the alleged villain’s guilt.

Takeaway: Readers will cheer this polished, highly enjoyable legal thriller.

Great for fans of: William Landay’s Defending Jacob, Michael Connelly.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A