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Return of the Sphynx
The San Diego police arrested a young man for the so-called Sphynx rapes. The D.A. believes he will finally defeat the suspect’s defense attorney, A.J. Hawke. His chief evidence: The suspect’s DNA matches the rapist’s DNA. But is the suspect the real Sphynx rapist? The DNA says “yes,” given that two people having the same DNA, theoretically, is a scientific impossibility—unless they are identical twins. A. J. Hawke aims to test that theory, claiming the true criminal is the suspect’s twin brother, who remains at large. Yet, how can Hawke prove his client even has a twin brother, let alone such a twin is the true culprit? Can Hawke’s defense, based on the existence of a rare genetic trait, convince a skeptical jury? Meanwhile, San Diego’s Presiding Judge tries to manipulate Hawke’s personal and professional life in an effort to discourage the young attorney from uncovering corruption in the city.
Sharp-witted lawyer A. J. Hawke uses an unusual genetic condition to defend a client against rape in a nail-biting legal thriller. In this sequel to The Sphynx Murder Case, Hawke must defend Joshua Wellington—alleged to be the dreaded "Sphynx Rapist" — when in reality it's his fugitive brother, Jacob. Jacob wants to see Joshua cleared, but won't turn himself in. Fortunately, Hawke finds Joshua has a special genetic condition—he is a "chimera," a person with “two complete genomes or sets of DNA in their body,” which both binds and separates him from Jacob. He must see if this is enough to convince a jury, but before the case is over, he may have to face the Sphynx himself.

McInnis mines his years of experience as a trial lawyer to bring a high level of reality to the trial prep and courtroom scenes. He has a talent for making the minutiae of trial work interesting, as when Hawke and his associates plan how they will use certain questions to impanel a sympathetic jury without upsetting the judge. McInnis also explores the power—and limits—of expert testimony as Hawke chips away at a distinguished DNA expert in a fascinating exchange. Nor is the personal side neglected, as Hawke and his staff bicker when trial tensions ratchet up.

The trial centers on the DNA of identical twins. McInnis gives the trope a fresh twist with the "chimera” idea, a complex but certainly unique and memorable situation to power a thriller. Thoughtful scientific discussion permeates the book, especially the strategic discussion of how Hawke will explain it to the jury. While most of the suspense centers on the courtroom, the finale shows Hawke can also be an effective action hero–and, fortunately, leaves open the possibility for more Hawke adventures.

Takeaway: A scrappy lawyer must use sophisticated science, and his fists, to aid a client.

Great for fans of: Scott Turow, Phillip Margolin.

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