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Unclean Hands

A Little About the Book:

A contentious trial is imminent: 

Rick Waterston’s legal practice is suffering. Although he’s stopped drinking, he can’t turn his life around. The ex is hounding him for past child support. His biggest client makes passes at him and there’s not a lot of money to spread around. 

Emily Hawkins’ husband was killed while shopping at the local B & D warehouse store, accused of shoplifting and suffocated while being detained waiting for the police to arrive. To figure out the true story of what happened to her husband she hires Rick to sue the store. 

Without any settlement offer, they are forced to take the case to trial where Rick has to handle the overbearing lawyers representing the store—the same people who fired him from his first job and sent him on his downward spiral.

No trial is predictable, but Rick must question his tactics when witnesses fall apart on the stand and crumble under intense cross-examination. The only hope of convincing the jury that shoplifters have rights is Emily who must stand her ground when confronted with her husbands’ dirty secrets.

Read a bit of the Story:

Still dressed in the dark pants suit she wore to the funeral, Emily pulled into the Costless parking lot. The late model pickup truck in the space next to hers towered over her sputtering sedan. She walked towards the cement outer wall typical of many big box retailers. Adorned on the façade was the name of the store in commanding bold letters and in script writing below, the company's tagline--"Your Products. . .at Amazing Prices."

The lot teemed with customers headed to the sliding glass doors at the entrance while others pushed over-sized shopping carts filled with bags of purchased wares back to their cars. Emily shopped here often as it was one of three places in their small town which sold groceries, but also offered the convenience of selling clothes, outdoor supplies and other items they needed.

The thought of her husband dying, or rather, being killed here filled her head. She examined the landmarks differently than the other times she had been here, trying to picture where and how he came to his demise. The painted hash-lines of the crosswalk, the flimsy metal frames of the cart corral and even the towering light standards were always present, but somehow they now took on a different significance as Emily wondered if any, in some small way, contributed to her husband's death.

In the time since Jerry died, the store hadn't contacted her. The police would not give her any details, only putting her off by informing her she had to wait until they completed their report. The local coroner had, at least, contacted her, but failed to provide her with any semblance of a story of what had happened. He told her he called in the medical examiner from the largest county in the state because, "Under the circumstances, this was beyond the capacity of his office."

She stood in the parking lot with her fist clenchedrealizing she had almost no information about how or why they killed her husband. Emily swiped at her eyes and dabbed her nose with a semi-used tissue, gathering her resolve to walk into the store. Unsure of what she wanted to accomplish, she reminded herself to be assertive.

The customer service desk sat to the right of the entrance doors, and she waited in the queue of three customers for the two women offering assistance. It took a couple of minutes before the shorter, older woman waved her to approach.

"May I help you?" the woman asked.

She nodded while looking at the floor. "My name is Emily Hawkins. My husband died here a few days ago. I would like to talk to somebody."

The service clerk scrunched her eyebrows. "Of course, honey. Let me find Mr. Oliver. He's the Store Director." She picked up the phone and held up one finger. "

Five minutes later, a middle-aged African-American man, wearing glasses and sporting a deep baritone approached. He stood eight inches taller than her and carried himself like a former athlete. "Mrs. Hawkins, my name is Wayne Oliver. I'm the Store Director. We are so sorry for your loss." He grasped Emily's right hand with both of his. "Can we talk?"

She followed him to a small office near to the registers. "It's not much, but I don't spend much time in here," He grabbed a chair and placed it in front of his desk. He sat on the other side and clasped his hands .

Locking eyes with her, he said, "Please Ms. Hawkins, tell me what I can do for you."

Emily dropped her eyes and pondered how to ask how Jerry had been murdered in this store. Finally, she said, "Mr. Oliver, nobody will tell me what happened to my husband. I hope you would help me figure out how he died here."

"Yes, ma'am. I agree you are entitled to find out how he came to pass away."

Emily interrupted. "Sir, not to be rude, but he didn't pass away. He was murdered."

Oliver shook his head and bit his lip. "I don't want to quibble with you, Ms. Hawkins, but 'murdered' is such a strong word for what occurred."

"Well, why don't you tell me what happened, and we can decide what to call it."

"I want to give you as much information as possible. The problem is I was on my day off, so I have no direct knowledge of the circumstances of his demise."

Oliver's avoidance of providing her with any details was now beginning to irk Emily, who sat forward in her chair. "Mr. Oliver, I understand you didn't witness what happened, but I assume as Store Director--that's what you called yourself, isn't it?--you would try to figure out how someone is killed on your property."

"Of course. Our corporate office is in the midst of conducting a thorough investigation. They are speaking with everyone present. I'm not involved. It's out of my hands." He turned his palms up.

"Is there any video of what happened?"

Oliver paused, appearing to formulate his words with care before responding. "My understanding is, some exists."

"What's on it?"

"Oh, Ms. Hawkins, I'm not at liberty to provide those details."

Emily's eyes narrowed, and she forced herself to slow down. "I would like to watch the video. Please show it to me."

"I wish I could, but I can't."

"Why not?" Her voice almost cracked.

"I'm under instructions not to allow anyone to view it. I made a copy and sent it over to corporate."

"Who told you not to let me watch the video?"

"Our legal department."

"Are you kidding? So far you haven't told me anything. You won't tell me what happened, who was involved or what's on the video."

Oliver's face lost all expression. "Ms. Hawkins, I assume you can appreciate this is a delicate situation. I've been given certain instructions to not talk about this until our investigation is complete. You can understand, can't you?"

Emily's cheeks flushed crimson and her jaw clenched. "No, I don't understand this at all. I have no idea what happened to my husband or why, but I'm getting much more suspicious every moment I'm with you. Is there anything you want to tell me?"

"One detail about the evening was odd and I think triggered everything. I shouldn't tell you this," he said as he leaned forward, "but it all started right after your husband was caught shoplifting."

Emily's heart thumped in her chest. "You act like this is a joke. Jerry was killed on your property and now you accuse him of stealing. You're not being forthcoming with me, Mr. Oliver. Something's odd about how you're treating me and I'm going to figure out why." Emily stood and extended her hand. "The next person you will hear from is my lawyer. Good day."

She felt the sweat on Oliver's hand when they shook. "At least he doesn't know I've never spoken with any attorneys." she thought. "All I have to do is find myself the right one." She walked out of the store with her head held high and the contours of a plan solidifying.

What Others are Saying about Unclean Hands:

I loved it!!! From beginning to end! I never wavered! What a captivating read! I liked how it started with such detailed and colorful descriptions of all the characters before we knew what story was even being told....the trial details had me in the courtroom! It's so well written and pulls you in! You love certain characters and truly hate others and when I was done, I wished there was a book two so I could continue following their lives! I would never give anything away so I can't say much more other than READ IT!! and enjoy!...

A truly stellar and enthralling legal thriller, author James Rosenberg once again finds the perfect balance between his background as an attorney and the intricate depth he finds within his characters. The blend of each character’s integral role in the trial and the case overall with their own personal struggles, especially protagonist Rick and his haunted past, really helped the narrative flow smoothly.

In this day and age, the concept of lawful versus unlawful arrests and the demand for more accountability towards those accused of crimes versus actual criminals has never been higher. The narrative really does a great job of capturing this important societal theme, while also giving an original and unique spin on the story overall that will have readers hanging on the author’s every word. The pacing of this fits perfectly in the legal thriller genre, really setting up the case and making the reader eager to read as each clue is unraveled slowly but surely.

The Verdict

A brilliant, engaging, and jaw-dropping legal thriller, author James Rosenberg’s “Unclean Hands” is a must-read novel. The shocking final moments of the book’s legal battle will leave readers reeling as the truth is revealed, and the more personal and intimate moments with characters like Rick will keep the reader feeling more connected to the narrative overall. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!...

A compelling read from start to finish - this is Rosenberg at his finest. Thrilling plot and thoroughly developed characters that I enjoyed rooting for (and against). Rosenberg has become a master of the genre. Buy the book; take the ride.