No doubt renowned criminal trial attorney, legal commentator on television and prolific essay writer Paul Batista knows his way around the law and the Hamptons—he has a home in Sag Harbor.
Despite praise from various legal analysts, however, Batista’s newest novel, The Borzoi Killings, will likely leave readers who expect mystery, a thriller and driving narrative less than satisfied. Though a killing occurs in the first chapter (Brad Richardson, the 10th richest man in the world, is slain in his luxury beachfront house, along with his prized Borzoi dogs), the investigation, arrest, trial and resolution can be anticipated. Moreover, descriptive passages on the Hamptons—numerous, intrusive and irrelevant (they don’t delay the action in a suspenseful way)—may cause unease. Is East Hampton still being referenced as “elite” and “exclusive” and full of “dirty little secrets” about money, sex and drugs?
When Juan Suarez, a tall, handsome illegal immigrant, who had been working as a handyman for Brad and his sex-starved wife, Joan, is arrested for Brad’s murder, the famous and beloved defense attorney Raquel Rematti takes up the case at the behest of one of her former students who works in Suffolk County. The give-and-take in the courtroom among defense, prosecutor and judge has the ring of authenticity, but the writing overall, alas, suffers from recurring phrases, odd locutions (a cottage that’s “profoundly attractive”) and repetitive syntax. Women are all gorgeous, corrupt cops true to stereotypical form and characters superficial and unbelievable (Joan keeps pictures of some of the men she has dated: Jack Nicholson, Jesse Jackson, Mortimer Zuckerman, Philip Roth, Salmon Rushdie and George Clooney).
A sharp editor might have urged focus on the courtroom scenes, where Batista could not only have shown off his expertise but also educated the general reader on familiar judicial matters not well understood.