A Patent Lie, the new novel by Paul Goldstein, trumps John Grisham's work in every way — character, setting, plot and the prose — and gives readers interested in the drama of a high-value legal case a great reward for their attention.
The protagonist is an intellectual property lawyer named Michael Seeley, a former alcoholic who has retreated from high-powered corporate law in New York City to his native Buffalo. When his only sibling, a medical adviser to a Northern California biotech firm, shows up at his office to hire him as main counsel for a federal patent law case — the former lead counsel has somewhat inconveniently committed suicide — Seeley puts his solitude and his doubts about the case behind him and flies West.
The case is timely and fascinating; it's all about patent infringement on an American company's AIDS vaccine by a huge European conglomerate. Seeley's preparation for the trial — and the trial itself — form the heart of the story. Goldstein narrates all this so skillfully — from jury selection to final judgment — that even novices at the law can understand it without the author having to sacrifice any of the complex chemistry of the case.
But this is more than just a story about procedure. Attorney Seeley is hardly cold-blooded; he fights back his thirst for alcohol and allows his sympathy to go to work when the former counsel's widow asks him to help prove that her husband was actually murdered. Seeley also succumbs to the attractions of a somewhat-reluctant potential witness, a beautiful Chinese scientist whose work on the AIDS vaccine eventually takes center stage in the development of the plot.
There's no stopping Seeley when it comes to following his passion for this case's intricate truths, and there's no stopping the reader either. I read the book in nearly one sitting on a recent cross-country flight. I wished the flight had been longer.