Published just a few days after In Contempt, Christopher Darden's anguished howl against O.J. Simpson's acquittal, Shapiro's book is, by comparison, a low-decibel defense of his infamous client. He insists that "not guilty" was the proper verdict because the prosecution's "mountain of evidence collapsed under an avalanche of incompetence, contamination and lies." Yet Shapiro waffles on the question of O.J.'s innocence ("I wasn't there") and pointedly distances himself from the man he spent 16 months helping set free. "We never had a personal relationship before," he writes, "and we won't have one in the future."
What Shapiro and cowriter Warren, a former Esquire editor, seem more interested in focusing on is the lawyerly cunning displayed by the author and his handpicked Dream Team of attorneys. A former amateur boxer, Shapiro casts himself as a cagey fighter called to battle against incompetent prosecutors, back-stabbing cocounsels and the ravenous, irresponsible media. He gobbles up credit for major defense victories (such as coaching Simpson on how to model the ill-fitting bloody gloves) and righteously deplores F. Lee Bailey's grandstanding and Johnnie Cochran's race-baiting.
Surprisingly, this self-serving focus pays off: The book is as taut, dramatic and even suspenseful as a top-notch legal thriller. A dazzling display of ego (his own ego, Shapiro admits, "is in pretty good shape"), The Search for Justice is also a fresh and revealing take on the overanalyzed trial of the century. (Warner, $24.95)