Expert Testimony

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Gideon Page is the oldest but newest member of the staff of the public defender’s office in the fictional town of Blackewell, Arkansas. When the town’s most popular political figure, Hart Anderson, is shot and killed by Perry Sarver, a man who is manifestly insane, Page offers to prepare his defense. His other colleagues and his boss, Greta Darby, are willing to let him have the case, since it will be unpopular and since there seems to be little doubt that Sarver will be convicted.

Complications arise immediately. Sarver’s actions are those of a man experiencing a severe psychotic episode, and Page finds it almost impossible to communicate with the man. The district attorney claims to have evidence that Sarver has been set up to kill Anderson by a psychiatrist named Jerry Kerner. Anderson’s widow, Carolyn, is also a psychiatrist. Carolyn is beautiful as well as helpful, and Page is drawn to her until he begins to believe that she is manipulating him.

Page’s life away from the office is equally complex. He has been a widower for two years and is trying to rear an adolescent daughter. For the first time since his wife died he develops a serious interest in another woman, Rainey McCorkle, a social worker. Rainey helps Page with Sarah, his daughter, but is reluctant to become sexually involved with him.

Medication calms Perry Sarver down to the point where Page can explain to him the deal being offered by the District...

(The entire section is 443 words.)