Reading guide for The Arraignment by Steve Martini

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Arraignment

A Paul Madriani Novel

by Steve Martini

The Arraignment
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2003, 448 pages
    Aug 2003, 416 pages

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!


In The Arraignment, the seventh and most compelling entry in the Paul Madriani series, Steve Martini spins a tale of greed, deception, and white collar crime that reaches from San Diego to Cancun and from ancient Mayan civilization to the present day. When attorney Paul Madriani's discovers his friend and fellow lawyer Nick Rush gunned down with a dubious client outside the federal courthouse, he feels responsible. Nick left his handheld device on the table where he and Paul had just finished breakfast, and if Paul had tried harder to get Nick's attention to return it, Nick might still be alive. Now, Paul is left with a piercing sense of guilt and a host of unanswered—and seemingly unanswerable—questions. Was Nick's death an accident, a case merely of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or was he murdered because of his association with Gerald Metz, the shady contractor whom Paul himself had turned down as a client? Why did Nick try to steer Metz his way? And why was Nick, as Paul later discovers, in business with someone like Metz?

To untangle these mysteries, Paul is willing to represent a man who may be a murderer, to jeopardize his own life to save that man's wife and child, and to let himself be taken on an ill-fated trip to Mexico that plunges him into a world of thievery, treachery, and violence. Throughout the novel, we see Paul in all his complexity. He is not just a razor-sharp lawyer, though he is very much that, frequently demonstrating his relentless skill as an interrogator, and even turning the tables on the insurance company to satisfy both Nick's grudging ex-wife Margaret and his grasping widow Dana. But he is also a caring father and a faithful friend, a man of generous instincts and remarkable bravery. Perhaps most unusually, Paul Madriani is a lawyer keenly aware of the thin facade that covers the misdeeds of the legal profession and equally capable of questioning his own conscience.

The result is a taut, fast-paced legal thriller that exposes the dark underside of the law, as well as the greed and overreaching ambition that so often, in fiction as in life, end in disaster.

Discussion Questions
  1. The Arraignment frequently offers trenchant insights into the inner workings of the law. Paul says, for example, that "lawyers working in [mergers and acquisitions] will tell you that corporate management getting rich while their companies go broke is just part of the normal business cycle," and that "a lot of money in America is still made the old-fashioned way, by stealing it" [p. 219]. What other criticisms does the novel level at our legal system? In what ways does it illuminate real-world legal manipulations like those associated with the collapse of Enron and other corporate scandals? How does Paul Madriani regard these behaviors?
  2. In considering Nick Rush's death, Paul feels sure that "any psychiatrist would tell me I was faultless. But a lawyer, a man trained to sharpen the point on guilt, might view it otherwise, as I do, as a proximate cause of death" [p. 69]. To what extent is Paul responsible for Nick's death? How does his own sense of personal responsibility affect the unfolding of the rest of the novel? How do the novel's final revelations confirm or refute Paul's interpretation of his own behavior?
  3. What kind of women are Nick's ex-wife Margaret and his widow Dana Rush? What do we learn about their characters from the way they approach the settlement of Nick's life insurance policy? How do Paul's values differ from the values of these two women? What acts of generosity does Paul perform during the course of the novel?
  4. Everyone assumes, particularly after the Mexican connection is established, that drugs are involved in the murders of Metz and Nick Rush. Is it surprising to learn that drugs are may not be the motive for their murders? What are the implications of ancient cultural artifacts being used in major criminal activity?
  5. By what means does Steve Martini create and sustain narrative suspense throughout the novel? How does the novel's parceling out or withholding of knowledge create a desire to read on? How unexpected are the revelations delivered in the novel's final pages? Which of these disclosures were you able to predict?
  6. In what scenes does Paul Madriani most powerfully display his talents as a lawyer? Where do we see him demonstrating his skill in interrogation, in piecing together evidence, in being persuasive?
  7. What clues point to the real motives and real reasons behind the double murder of Nick Rush and Gerald Metz? At what point does another lawyer's involvement become questionable? Why doesn't Paul suspect this other lawyer earlier?
  8. Near the end of the novel, as Paul reflects on the danger of his situation, he thinks that to assume he "could unravel the reasons behind Nick's death was arrogant. To risk the security of the only family that Sarah has left was foolish beyond belief.... A single parent has no business doing what I'm doing" [p. 370]. Is this an accurate self-assessment? In what ways have Paul's actions been foolish and arrogant? What has driven him to undertake such actions?
  9. In the novel's epilogue, Paul says that a lawyer and chief villain of the story "was a victim of his own management style" [p. 393]. What exactly does Paul mean by this? What is this man's management style? In what ways is he responsible for his own undoing?
  10. When they're discussing whether or not Zane Tressler is "in somebody's pocket," despite his obvious wealth and power, Harry says "The devil's got a corner on sin, but he still wants more," whereupon Paul observes: "My partner is a firm believer in the dark side of man" [p. 157]. What does the novel, as a whole, seem to suggest about the nature of man? What examples of overreaching, of "wanting more," of out-of-control ambition, does it show us? What kind of critique of American society is implicit in The Arraignment?

For information about other Penguin Readers Guides, please call the Penguin Marketing Department at (800) 778-6425, write to them at: Penguin Books, Marketing Department CC, Readers' Guides, 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657.

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Jove. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Of Arms and Artists
    Of Arms and Artists
    by Paul Staiti
    In the late eighteenth-century, the United States of America was still an emerging country, ...
  • Book Jacket: So Say the Fallen
    So Say the Fallen
    by Stuart Neville
    Noir crime fiction – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett anyone? – is an American invention...
  • Book Jacket: The Mothers
    The Mothers
    by Brit Bennett
    Every now and then the publishing industry gushes about a young author destined to become the next ...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Les Parisiennes
    by Anne Sebba

    How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died under Nazi occupation.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Next
    by Stephanie Gangi

    Fast-paced, wickedly observant, and haunting in the best sense of the word.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    News of the World
    by Paulette Jiles

    Exquisitely rendered and morally complex--a brilliant work of historical fiction.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.