June 11, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
We gave it a B

”You schmuck. This isn’t — a John Grisham novel.” It’s a helluva risk to have your main character make that sort of po-mo allusion near the climax of your second legal thriller. But then much of Reuland’s novel toes the edge of our expectations, not to mention our patience. Semiautomatic is a thriller in name only, more interested in parsing the systemic shards of moral lethargy in Brooklyn’s legal system than any particulars of its threadbare plot. A year and a half after a wrenching screwup on a homicide trial, burned-out ADA Andrew Giobberti is assigned a robbery-murder case that looks by the book but is, of course, anything but. The story stays grounded, its dour outlook never curdling into stock cynicism — but Grisham is much more fun to read.

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