David Koeppel
March 26, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Attorney/author David Ellis creates an authentic world of corrupt cops, ambitious politicians, and dogged PIs. But Jury of One is still a generally bland legal thriller, occasionally enlivened by compelling courtroom theatrics and a compassionate heroine, children’s rights attorney Shelly Trotter. Here, Shelly defends teenage Alex, a small-time cocaine dealer accused of murdering a rogue cop. But the frequent flashbacks to Shelly’s own traumatic adolescence seem overwrought (”the nights a young woman lies awake, stroking her swollen belly, dreaming of the child she will never know”), and Ellis lapses into soap opera prose in an unnecessary romantic subplot (”Shelly detected a hint of his cologne and felt a stirring”). The pretension tends to overshadow Jury’s genuine surprises.

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