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James Sheehan's 'Law of Second Chances' deftly moves through time

Memo to members of the Lexingtons football team, Manhattan, 1966: Keep a close eye on your offspring.

Teammate Jack Tobin represented one buddy's son in a death row appeal. Now he's helping another one charged with capital murder.

James Sheehan's second novel, The Law of Second Chances, finds Jack comfortably settled in Bass Creek, Fla., married to his childhood friend, Pat, and defending death row inmates. Henry Wilson has only weeks before his execution when Jack takes his case. Jack befriends Henry's original lawyer, now a judge, and the two tackle a system more interested in procedure than innocence.

But there's more on Jack's plate: His wife, who has been bothered by a persistent pain in her abdomen, has cancer. As Jack battles for Henry's life, he can only watch helplessly as Pat battles for her own.

A third battle wages on another front: Manhattan. A snitch named Benny goes for a big score, only to find himself a pawn in a much larger conspiracy. Reluctant at first to help — he only defends the innocent — Jack is drawn back to his hometown. Though New York is one of the world's largest cities, in the 'hood, everyone is connected, some in surprising ways.

Sheehan deftly moves back and forth in place and time, the young Jack learning life skills on the gridiron and the adult Jack using those skills to wrestle with the justice and health care systems. A trial lawyer in the Tampa Bay area, Sheehan blends courtroom nitty-gritty, Florida nature imagery and a tender understanding of the bonds of love.

Kate Brassfield can be reached at (727) 893-8216 or kbrassfield@sptimes.com.

The Law of Second Chances

By James Sheehan

St. Martin's Press, 341 pages, $24.95

Meet the author

James Sheehan will read from and sign his book at 7 p.m. Thursday at Inkwood Books, 216 S Armenia Ave., Tampa.

James Sheehan's 'Law of Second Chances' deftly moves through time 03/29/08 [Last modified: Saturday, March 29, 2008 6:01am]

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