Robert Traver’s Anatomy of a Murder is courtroom drama at its best.
Lieutenant Frederic Manion shot Barney Quill to death in front of a room full of witnesses in Quill’s hotel bar before turning himself in. Manion says Quill had raped his wife.
Paul “Polly” Biegler dislikes Manion on sight, but since he lost his bid for re-election as county prosecutor, he needs income, and Manion needs a lawyer. Polly gets his secretary and an aging, alcoholic lawyer to help him defend Manion.
The only legal defense open to Manion is insanity.
At the trial, the novice prosecuting attorney is “assisted” by a savvy lawyer from the Attorney General’s office. It’s a fight to the finish—with the real excitement coming after the verdict.
Polly is an unlikely hero. Gentle, middle-aged, and funny, he pursues wily trout instead of luscious babes and remembers (sometimes) to water his mother’s plants while she’s away.
Anatomy of a Murder has mystery, courtroom drama, humor, a sprinkle of romance, and a generous helping of memorable personalities. Despite the passage of a half century, the story still rings true except for one thing: it’s impossible to imagine a murder case going to trial today in less than three months.Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver St. Martin’s 1958 437 pages Bestseller #2 for 1958 My grade: B+