The Mourning Sexton
Michael Baron
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Buy *The Mourning Sexton* online

The Mourning Sexton
Michael Baron
416 pages
February 2006
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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An intelligent, provocative novel of suspense, The Mourning Sexton tracks the death of Judith Shifrin, a young law clerk for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. Virtually untouchable in his position, Judith's boss and mentor is the Honorable Brendan McCormick, a contemporary of David Hirsch.

Hirsch is an attorney filing a civil wrongful death suit against the car manufacturer and other associated vendors of the vehicle that is potentially liable for the death of the young woman on an icy, snow-swept December night. The same corporations are involved in an interminable class-action suit overseen by the Honorable Judge McCormick. Once a high-flying trial lawyer at the top of the legal food chain, Hirsch was drawn into a clever embezzlement scheme. After a number of years in Federal prison, Hirsch's license to practice law is reinstated under the auspices of long-time friend, Seymour Rosenbloom.

Rediscovering his Jewish roots, Hirsch joins a group of men who pray together every morning at a synagogue near his home; hence the title, The Mourning Sexton. These men, whose numbers constitute a minyan, recite prayers for the dead as part of their daily ablutions. One of the minyan, Abe Shifrin, convinces Hirsch to file the lawsuit on behalf of his daughter, Judith, but the elder Shifrin has been diagnosed with rapidly progressing Alzheimer's disease, pitting Hirsch against the inevitable ravages of time.

A relatively simple settlement case turns into something entirely different as Hirsch uncovers proof that Judith was gathering evidence of serious legal misconduct involving high-ranking figures in St. Louis's legal establishment. What appeared to be an accident may, in fact, have been murder. Hirsch incorporates the aid of his best friend, a public-spirited young woman who runs a legal clinic for abused women and some behind-the-scenes expertise of a fellow con and computer expert, following Judith's meager Internet e-mail trail.

When everything adds up in a complex and intriguing mix of motives and machinations, Hirsch is holding proof of a scheme to defraud that is both staggering and dangerous. Set on his own personal atonement, former excesses and personal losses weighing on his soul, Hirsch is cognizant of the obstacles in his path, the enormous influence of corporate wealth and his threat to the status quo.

The author, a lawyer writing under a pseudonym, dives into the world of legalities with gusto, Hirsch the underdog tackling corporate litigators that would intimidate a lesser man. Undaunted, Hirsch makes his bid for personal redemption and a moral resolution to a young woman's senseless death, upsetting the carefully-laid plans of St. Louis's power brokers, proving himself a changed man in the process.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Luan Gaines, 2005

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