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The Deal
Cover of The Deal
The Deal
A Novel
At 7:00 am in a Boston boardroom, there's a disaster in the making. High in an office tower in the heart of the financial district, lawyers and bankers are fighting a deadline to close an $840,000,000 leveraged buyout. Under the pressure of the crowded agenda, no one notices that a zero has been dropped from the mortgage document. The papers are signed, cheers and applause roar from the boardroom—and the fuse of a time bomb is lit. When it explodes, there will be hell to pay. As the partners of Freer, Motley, the presiding law firm, will discover, they are collectively and personally liable to their client to make up the multimillion-dollar shortfall.
And so begins an accelerating and dire chain of events. Freer, Motley's senior partner is found dead, and its brightest young associate is charged with murder. The firm needs a fall guy, and John Shepard, brilliant but arrogant—and recently passed over for partner—fills the role to perfection. Defending John Shepard in a Boston court is going to be a career buster. No one wants the job, and no one understands why Ed Mulcahy accepts the case, even if he is Shepard's friend—but they don't know that he's already in way too deep to walk away.
On a par with Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent, The Deal is the most exciting new legal thriller from a first-time author to be published in years. Written by a young partner with one of Boston's prestigious old firms, it is an utterly authentic view of the city's judicial system, from the ex-con informants, paid for their evidence, to the district attorney who needs a conviction for the sake of his political career. It is also the compelling story of two young lawyers—a defendant and his attorney—realizing too late that they are up against an old-guard establishment more powerful than they could ever imagined.
At 7:00 am in a Boston boardroom, there's a disaster in the making. High in an office tower in the heart of the financial district, lawyers and bankers are fighting a deadline to close an $840,000,000 leveraged buyout. Under the pressure of the crowded agenda, no one notices that a zero has been dropped from the mortgage document. The papers are signed, cheers and applause roar from the boardroom—and the fuse of a time bomb is lit. When it explodes, there will be hell to pay. As the partners of Freer, Motley, the presiding law firm, will discover, they are collectively and personally liable to their client to make up the multimillion-dollar shortfall.
And so begins an accelerating and dire chain of events. Freer, Motley's senior partner is found dead, and its brightest young associate is charged with murder. The firm needs a fall guy, and John Shepard, brilliant but arrogant—and recently passed over for partner—fills the role to perfection. Defending John Shepard in a Boston court is going to be a career buster. No one wants the job, and no one understands why Ed Mulcahy accepts the case, even if he is Shepard's friend—but they don't know that he's already in way too deep to walk away.
On a par with Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent, The Deal is the most exciting new legal thriller from a first-time author to be published in years. Written by a young partner with one of Boston's prestigious old firms, it is an utterly authentic view of the city's judicial system, from the ex-con informants, paid for their evidence, to the district attorney who needs a conviction for the sake of his political career. It is also the compelling story of two young lawyers—a defendant and his attorney—realizing too late that they are up against an old-guard establishment more powerful than they could ever imagined.
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  • From the book PROLOGUE

    It is as though the news is corporeal, eager to brush past the old court officer unlatching the door and be off on its headlong flight from the jury room through the halls and the elevator banks of the annex, up and down the stairwells, into the offices and the sessions, along the third-floor corridor to the old building, penetrating every corner of the Suffolk County Court House.

    They have a verdict.

    The court officers fan out to summon the lawyers, finding Edward Mulcahy first, seated on a bench outside the courtroom. But the news has outstripped them, and suddenly is everywhere in the building. In the corner office on the sixth floor, a secretary is interrupting a meeting to tell the district attorney. Downstairs, the first assistant clerk replaces the telephone in its cradle, then steps from his office into the typing pool to tell a docket clerk, who passes it on to another. Two slip-and-fall lawyers stop their haggling in the hallway as a third brings them the word. At the back of a hearing under way in the Boston Municipal Court, a cop whispers it to a defense attorney. And in the first-floor lobby, the blind man behind the cash register in the tiny coffee shop smiles, his fingers sensing the jangling vibrations running through the old building.

    On the eighth floor of the annex, elevators, stairwell doors, offices open and spill lawyers, assistant D.A.'s, reporters, court personnel, spectators; waves of people rolling toward 8b. They push through the session door, taking seats in the gallery, edging into the back of the room, filling the space around the white-haired woman who sits in the front row, her hands clasping her Bible, her eyes closed, her lips moving in silent prayer. Not far away—behind the session wall—a court officer is fumbling for his keys to open the lockup and tell the man sitting alone behind the wire mesh what he has already sensed.

    It is time.

    "All rise for the jury!"

    The door beside the court officer's seat opens, and the jurors emerge in single file, all eyes in the crowded gallery on them, their own fixed upon the floor or in indefinite space, their faces a mask as they pass within inches of the defense table.

    "Be seated. Will the jurors and the defendant please remain standing."

    A rustling, a shifting, as seats are taken, and still, from the jury box—at which Ed Mulcahy dares not look—come no smiles, no frowns, nothing to betray their sympathies. As the room settles again and falls silent, Mulcahy remains standing at the defendant's side, with his client, but alone, as together they wait for judgment. On the wall clock, the minute hand jumps. It is 1:58 in the afternoon, September 28, 1992.

    "Madam Forelady, has the jury reached its verdict?"

    "We have, Your Honor."

    "Will you pass the verdict slip to the court officer, please?"

    The ritual proceeds. Now the eyes of the room follow the single slip of white paper as it makes its excruciating tour. It is handed to the court officer, passed from him to the clerk, inspected briefly, and then delivered up over the bench, where it comes to rest in the judge's hand, the eyes of the entire room riveted on it. No facial muscle twitches as the judge peers through his eyeglasses. No reaction. Mulcahy feels a pull in his throat and a sickness at the pit of his stomach. Back comes the verdict slip to the clerk, who turns to face the jurors.

    The case, the defense, the client, his own future: all are out of his power, all in the hands of these twelve lay priests. Perhaps their benediction, if benediction it be, will bring him relief: but there...
About the Author-
  • Sabin Willett is a partner with the Boston law firm Bingham, Dana & Gould, and The Deal is his first novel. He graduated from Harvard and Harvard Law School, and lives outside Boston.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 29, 1996
    Weak characterizations, overblown prose and predictable plotting spoil Willet's debut, a legal thriller set in the rarefied financial and legal circles of greater Boston. The premise, though, is simple and sweet: as maverick attorney John Shepard closes the biggest deal in the history of Freer, Motley & Stone, no one notices that an error in the documents allows the recipient of the $840 million mortgage that supports the deal to pay it off with $840 thousand. The horrified partners learn that they may face hundreds of millions in malpractice liability. Soon the senior partner is dead, and Shepard is arrested for his murder. Two weeks from trial, Shepard fires his high-profile defense attorney and persuades his friend Ed Mulcahy, a litigator at Freer, to take the case. Ed does, and promptly loses his job. With little time to prepare, limited trial experience, a difficult client and Boston's legal and political establishment arrayed against him, Ed thus must win this case as much for himself as for his client. Willett fills the narrative with tired genre turns, such as how the stress of the trial draws Mulcahy and his assistant together romantically. His dialogue is equally cheap (a black youth: "He a strong muhfucker. Wipped yo' ass"; a P.I.: "Shepid? I heard aboudim"). Off the street and inside boardrooms and courtrooms, Willett's atmospherics seem authentic-he is himself a partner in a Boston law firm-but it's hard to accept the incredible confluences of incompetence and naivete from his cast of high-priced lawyers. An unsatisfying denouement proves a poor reward for those who hang on to see how the story's many loopholes are closed. Simultaneous Random AudioBook.

  • Library Journal

    February 1, 1996
    A legal thriller from a budding Scott Turow.

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A Novel
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