Sophisticated, multilayered, a masterpiece of descriptive writing

By Wanda A. Adams, Advertiser Books Editor. The Honolulu Advertiser.

Baine Kerr’s Wrongful Death is a sophisticated, multilayered story, one in which none of the answers are easy, none of the issues clear-cut. ...

There is story within story within story here, peopled by mature characters: a widowed and grieving attorney who flees to Europe to escape his pain and gains some hard-won perspective; the hard-bitten but very human woman he meets there and comes to love; the railroad worker, proud of being a successful woman in a man’s world, who pays with the rest of her life for a single, terrible mistake; the loner who is horribly injured in an accident at work, and who may just be a murderer; and the young client who is driven to find out what happened to the mother from whom she was too long estranged. ...

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Grisham, this isn’t. Poor Elliot Stone's case hardly does anything so simple as to make it into court. Instead, he must first clarify in his own mind what happened, chasing down clues that only seem to complicate the case. ...

Kerr’s first chapter, detailing the accident, is a masterpiece of descriptive writing, calling on all the senses so that the reader is right there, in the swirling blizzard, as June inches a string of railroad cars toward her doom.

The dialogue throughout is top-notch ...

And Stone is an attractive central character—smart but a bit of a bumbler, a man of feeling in a heartless profession, capable of things of which he is not proud, particularly as he takes stock of his life after what he has seen in Bosnia.

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A Densely Woven Legal Thriller

Kirkus Reviews

[A] densely woven legal thriller explores the human-scale motives for Balkan genocide through a painstaking analogy to a home-front civil suit for wrongful death. ...

Two years ago, former railroad attorney Elliot Stone served as conservator for Dale Stillwell, a brakeman crippled in a switching-yard accident. June Mooney, the switching engineer whose train had accidentally crushed Stillwell, had nursed him devotedly unto holy wedlock, and at the fadeout, both Stillwell and his bride were in a position to benefit handsomely from a railroad company settlement—though Stone can’t help but be disturbed by Stillwell’s dissociated remark: “I’m going to k-kill her."

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The Climax is a Superbly Rendered Trial Sequence

 Publisher's Weekly.

Kerr is a medical malpractice lawyer who spent a year in The Hague observing Bosnian war crimes trials. At first glance, he might be trying to cram too much of his own experience into his second thriller (after 1999's Harmful Intent), but everything winds up fitting together beautifully in this strong and very moving tale. Lawyer Elliot Stone, grieving the sudden death of his wife and fed up with defending railroad clients against the claims of accident victims, needs a career and life change. He takes a job with the War Crimes Tribunal, falls in love with a beautiful and funny Dutch/Indonesian taphonomist (a specialist in the analysis of biological remains) named Quierin and comes home to Colorado after two years, in hopes of getting a judgeship. Instead, he lets his friend Dr. Hans Leitner—an expert medical witness known as "Dr. God" because of his skill in convincing juries—talk him into becoming a conservator in a complicated case involving a man severely brain-damaged in a train accident, who is also accused of attacking his wife, June, and putting her into an irreversible coma. The book's climax is a superbly rendered trial sequence, in which Stone and June's gutsy college-age daughter fight for June's rights against a team of heavyweights that includes Dr. Leitner. Without stretching a point or missing a beat, Kerr manages to show how the evils done in places like Bosnia can mirror the actions of people thousands of miles away. It's an impressive performance and a stunning, inspiring read.

Forecast: Kerr's first thriller was a winner, and this one should cement his reputation. With the right promotion and handling, Wrongful Death could be headed for bestseller lists.

Selected as one of the Chicago Tribune’s Twelve Best Mysteries of The Year

Kerr's Talents Positively Gleam

The Chicago Tribune.

Can a commercial work of crime fiction carry the weight not only of medical malpractice and legal gymnastics but also the moral quagmire of Bosnian war crimes? Baine Kerr makes believers of us all as he moves his hero, a railroad lawyer named Elliot Stone, home to Boulder, Colo., after two years of working with the War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague. Stone wants to be a federal judge, but his friend and Bosnian colleague, Dr. Hans Leitner, an expert medical witness known as "Dr. God" because of his skill in swaying juries, talks Stone into becoming conservator in a case involving a man severely brain-damaged in a train accident.

When the brain-damaged man is later charged with attacking his wife and putting her into an irreversible coma, Stone and his beautiful, sharply rendered lady friend--a Dutch-Indonesian scientist named Quierin--join with the comatose woman's determined daughter in a complicated but vastly entertaining court battle against the dangerously sanctimonious Leitner and a team of legal heavyweights.

Kerr's talents positively gleam here as he has Stone use what he learned in Bosnia to expose a particularly vile act of homegrown evil.

"Kerr pulls it all together with such flair, you can only sit back in amazement and admiration. ...  I doubt anyone will ever write a better trial sequence." -- Rosina Lippi

a wonderful writer, an ear for language, characters come alive

By Rosina Lippi, linguist and novelist. Storytelling.

I don't usually like courtroom dramas, or at least I haven't got a list of ones that worked especially well for me. Beyond To Kill A Mockingbird, of course. Can't beat that one. I do read such novels, but they often don't stay with me for very long. I couldn't recount the plot of any of Grisham novel, for example.

Baine Kerr is an attorney who has written two novels. When I read Harmful Intent I knew right away that I was in the hands of a wonderful writer, somebody with an ear for language and the ability to make characters come alive as they moved through the story. So I went out and got his second novel, Wrongful Death, immediately.

Wrongful Death is different in tone from Harmful Intent, and it took me a little longer to get into it. I had to stop myself from reading quickly and really concentrate on the first ten pages. I have rarely invested my reading time so well. Wrongful Death is about things as diverse as personal injury law and the Bosnian war-crime tribunals, mother-daughter relationships and forensic pathology. And Kerr pulls it all together with such flair, you can only sit back in amazement and admiration.

Absolutely wonderful rendering of three very different women. ... The next time I hear somebody claiming that men can’t write women, I’ll hand them this book.

The final section of the novel takes place in court, and I doubt anyone will ever write a better trial sequence. What is best about this novel, though, is Kerr's absolutely wonderful rendering of three very different women, each so clearly drawn and so distinct from the other that you hear their voices without trying. The next time I hear somebody claiming that men can't write women, I'll hand them this book.

Wrongful Death deals with terrible tragedy, human weakness and grief, but it is, in the end, hopeful. It has my highest recommendation.