THE FIRST LAW
This present-day thriller set in San Francisco attempts to modernize the legendary gunfight at the OK Corral, with slightly heavy-handed results. The tale itself is compelling, but the Western allegory becomes a little forced at times.
The story stands on its own, revolving around the murder of a shop owner and a large cast of characters that include an exiled homicide lieutenant, a criminal defense attorney, various detectives, prosecutors and a journalistall of whom are either trying to clear or convict John Holiday, a disgraced pharmacist, alcoholic and tavern owner, trying to get his life in order after the deaths of his wife and child.
Holiday is implicated by a supposed pillar of the community, who runs local patrols in conjunction with the police and his hot-headed nephew. Suspiciously, the detectives assigned to the case are not searching for alternative suspects.
While satisfying, it takes a good deal of time to fill in the back story, which doesn't justify its 384-page length. Still, the company is generally good, and the twists just keep on coming. (Jan., 384 pp., $25.95)