by Paul Jess, FJA Interim Executive Director
In the brilliant set up, the author tells the story of a state-of-the-art gunsight targeting technology developed by a major weapons manufacturer and used by police in Chicago and the U.S. military. In controlled conditions, it’s a breakthrough technology. But in the field, the technology malfunctions. When that happens in the business of using a gun, people often die. That’s bad if your business is based on ensuring people shoot straight.
The hero of the story is Gina Romano, a highly-successful trial attorney and self-described “Jersey Girl.” With her boss Nick “Deke” Deketomis – described as more Judge Roy Bean than Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg – Romano seeks justice for the murder of her mentor.
For fans of Papantonio, both characters were introduced in his 2016 book, Law and Disorder. Law and Vengeance also features a crooked second-Amendment defending gun-rights lobbyist, corrupt members of the Chicago Police Department, a CEO of a well-connected weapons manufacturer selling a defective and deadly product, a millennial hitman with NSA-level surveillance skills and a destructive weakness, and a miscalculating U.S. Department of Justice.
In his writing, Papantonio provides sharp political insight and incredible character development.The players come alive in this page-turner. Papantonio has said that “Deke” is a composite character of trial attorneys he has known. As a senior partner of Levin Papantonio, one of the largest plaintiffs’ law firms in the country, Papantonio is a veteran litigator who has worked thousands of mass tort cases including pharmaceutical drug litigation, tobacco litigation, and securities fraud actions. It’s easy to believe that in his professional life, the author may have come across characters like those featured in the pages of Law and Vengeance.
As in many remarkable stories, as Gina Romano works to overcome childhood trauma, the greatest enemy she faces is the one she sees in the mirror. After narrowly escaping death in the hack-fueled attack on her mentor, Romano goes through a rebirth of sorts.
In reading this enjoyable novel, it’s important to remember this passage from John Dryden, quoted in the book:
Murder may pass unpunished for a time,
But tardy justice will o’ertake the crime.
This is the central theme. In this story, justice delayed is still justice delivered.
Romano’s surprising approach to a series of explosive depositions “burns down the house,” opening the door to examining the weapons company CEO. This breaks the case wide open. Like the 10th plague of the Passover story from Exodus, one by one, overdue justice quickly arrives for the bad actors in the case.
On some fishing expeditions, the big one gets away only to be caught another day. A primary target is shifty to the finish. In the end, the main characters stand at a moral and ethical crossroads. Making the wrong choice could unleash a cancer that could eventually bring ruin to their successful firm.
Papantonio accents the fictional world he paints with real-world knowledge of how politics works. This entertaining and educational novel provides a spotlight on the growing cancer of corporate corruption and provides readers with an important understanding of the complex issues top trial attorneys tackle every day in their work.
With this book, Papantonio has brought the reader colorful characters who could easily become compelling subjects of a suspense-filled Netflix series. Until then, grab a copy of Law and Vengeance and settle down for an entertaining, educating and enlightening read.