Picks and Pans Review: A Summons to New Orleans

updated 09/11/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/11/2000 01:00AM

by Barbara Hall

For the author, who is executive producer and head writer for the hit CBS courtroom series Judging Amy, New Orleans was once her "favorite city on earth"—that is, until she was raped there three years ago.

Elements of that ordeal have wound up in this well-written novel. The protagonist is not rape victim Simone Gray but rather Nora Braxton, an old friend beckoned to N'Awlins to lend Simone moral support during the rapist's trial. The courthouse scenes make for absorbing reading, but it's Nora's inner turmoil that fascinates. With plenty of time to loll around her hotel while the trial is not in session, she stews over her failed marriage to a philandering husband, her disaffected teenage son, her crazy mother, whether to have a one-night stand in the Big Easy and even whether she believes Simone's claim of rape. This could be tedious, but how Nora sorts it all out is as suspenseful as waiting for the verdict. (Simon & Schuster, $23)

Bottom Line: Summons well served

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