Pardon the Ravens

A novel by Alan Hruska

"Fans of legal-thriller stars like John Grisham, John Lescroart, William Lashner, and especially Scott Turow will want to add this fine novel to their must-read lists." — Booklist



September 1961. New York. Wall Street. Center of the universe. Bounding up from the subway, Alec Brno sails forth. 

He’s noticed and noticing, this gangly young man, his longish face questioning, his brown hair awry. Heading toward Water Street into the sun, he pauses at Broad. Rivers of boaters—white straw hats with bright silk bands—stream on currents of lawyers and brokers. And there are guys rushing, like Alec: hatless, eager. Guys thinking, I’m ready! Depression babies in their ill-fitting suits.

To the magazine columnists, they are “The Silent Generation,” which misses the point while unintentionally abetting it. Graduates of the Fifties aren’t shouting slogans down the corridors of power. They’re too busy quietly taking over what the Establishment has.

And Alec Brno is especially motivated. He’s a poor kid from Queens with an unpronounceable last name—the Czechs, for obscure reasons, having disdained the need to make explicit indispensable vowel sounds. To those in power, a person with such a name coming from such a place has sizable obstacles to overcome—a fact of life of which Alec is well aware.

In point of fact, Alec’s family is more Organized Labor than ethnic. Union Socialists, almost Communists, for whom Wall Street has particular abhorrence. These are people, Alec has always known, with big hearts, intolerance for injustice, and little understanding of economics. They would regard the firm employing him as the Mecca of depravity, and its presiding partner, former judge of the federal court of appeals Ben Braddock, as the socialist equivalent of the Antichrist. By their standards, those assessments would be dead accurate. Kendall, Blake, Steele & Braddock is not simply the most-feared legal weapon wielded by American big business; in important respects, it runs the institutions it services.

Two years earlier, Alec had signed on with Kendall, Blake right out of law school. Then, the firm had been housed at 25 Broad Street—a squat pile of some twenty floors, deco in style, serviced by elevators that made a great deal of clanking noise and took forever to go in either direction. But new buildings continually arise in the city, and its successful inhabitants grow into them. Now, every morning, Alec speeds soundlessly to the heights of a sixty-story glass tower on Water Street. He has his own small office on the fifty-eighth floor with a spectacular view of almost the entirety of Manhattan.

Alec is drawn to that view as soon as he enters his office and stands admiring it for some minutes before settling down at his desk. The partner he works for, Frank Macalister, is in Miami, finishing a trial. It’s the only Macalister case Alec isn’t assigned to, which means he’s expected to deal with the rest of Mac’s caseload. It can be time-consuming, keeping everything from blowing up in his face, but it’s a lot easier dealing with Mac’s opponents and co-counsel than with Mac himself.

For the last several days, Alec has been covering for Mac, representing Biogram Pharmaceuticals in a five-defendant price fixing trial, one of the few government actions brought under the state antitrust laws. Normally, Alec would be in court an hour beforehand to get everything ready for the first chair. As it is, he has to swing by the office first for Mac’s letters and messages. He leafs through them, then moves the stack to a corner of his desk. None requires immediate attention. He’s got the luxury of a few minutes to think about what the morning might bring about.

He leans back and visualizes the courtroom. He sees, facing the bench, a semicircle made up of six small tables. Behind each will sit the senior trial counsel for each party accompanied by one or more junior partners, or in the case of the state attorney general’s office, several less senior trial attorneys. Behind them will be their associates, and behind them, patent counsel, for there are charges in the case of monopolization by the fraudulent procurement of patents. And behind each of those tiers there will come and go the various experts, paralegals, and other support personnel for each team. At the table for Biogram, in splendid isolation, Alec Brno will reign: a second-year associate, first chair temporarily, at the first trial he’s ever seen firsthand, much less participated in.

The witness for the day, and probably several more, will be J.J. Tierney, the chief executive of Pharmex Pharmaceuticals, holder of the principal patent. According to the government, it was Tierney who masterminded the price fix. The possibilities that Alec might cross-examine the case’s pivotal witness in Mac’s absence are slim to none. What Tierney will say on direct examination has been heavily negotiated and agreed upon. If Alec were to speak at all, it would most likely be to read the statement that Mac wrote out for him with a smirk: “No questions for this witness, your Honor.” Alec hopes he can manage to get that out without embarrassing himself.

One of these days, he thinks, he’ll head up a litigation team and be comfortable enough in court to command attention, not let it command him. At his present level of inexperience, however, his view of trial practice is still influenced by the movies.

He packs his black leather litigation (“lit”) bag and makes for the elevators. e image in his head is of Raymond Burr’s district attorney in A Place in the Sun, slamming his cane on the counsel table. Were such histrionics even conceivable in State of New York vs. Pharmex Pharmaceuticals, et al.? Emerging from the elevator, Alec laughs out loud, almost in the face of Judge Braddock, a long, gaunt, white-haired man in a black homburg, waiting to get on. Disapproval flickers in the judge’s sharp gaze, with no sign he knows or cares who Alex is.


At a tower window of an oil storage facility in Bayonne, New Jersey, manager Whitman Poole stands riveted, watching. It is one thirty-seven in the morning.

Miles of marshland breathe in the night. Moonlight flares the tops of marsh reeds. In the yard, thirty-foot-high storage tanks row up like a mustering of UFOs.

Eventually, an oil truck appears, bumping along the potholed road to the facility. Front gates swing wide. The truck splashes through puddles and sidles up to a tank. Two men jump out. They attach a truck nozzle to the tank and open a tank valve. With each exertion, their breath fogs the air. They work fast, with an occasional glance over their shoulders.

Poole, a tanned, hair-combed-back dandy, observes intently. He looks jumpy, displeased that the men below aren’t moving faster.

Poole’s attention is diverted by a silver Cadillac Eldorado pulling into the compound. He remains fixed on the car as it stops near the tower. e driver springs forth to open the passenger door. Uncoiling from the seat is a tall, black-haired figure in a leather jacket, who, with indifference to his surroundings, carries a lighted cigar. As he looks up to Poole’s window, the power and pathology of the man are evident on his broad, flat face.

Poole, anxious to please, jerks his thumb upward in a gesture of success. e tall man grimaces, flips the cigar away in a splash of embers, and gets back in his car. His driver scurries to stamp out the sparks.

“Where to, Phil?” the driver asks through the open back window of the vehicle.

“I’m staying in town. Call a meeting for the morning—nine-thirty.” 

“Sure.” Still thinking, settling into the driver’s seat. “What’s up, boss?”

“Just call the meeting, Vito, all right?”

Vito blinks several times and cranes around. He’s a pear-shaped man with a large head, but with the sort of bulging muscularity that suggests serious devotion to a workout routine. He knows he’s slower than his boss in comprehending most anything, but he does like to have things explained.

“His face, Vito. I don’t like his face.”

“That’s it?” says Vito.

 Phil’s frown shows the edge of his patience. “We’ve let it go too long. Everyone’s too fucking greedy. And smug. Okay?”

“Whatever you say, boss.”

“And another loose end.”

“How’s that?”

“Aaron Weinfeld,” says Phil.

“The lawyer?”

“He’s in Narragansett, Rhode Island. I’ll want you to go up there this weekend. The boat’s up there. The fifteen-footer. Or it’ll be out of Newport by the time you arrive. You can use the boat.”

“The boat,” repeats Vito.

“You know what I’m talking about, use the boat?

“Like last time.”

“Exactly... like last time.”

“Why’s he in Rhode Island?”

Phil summons his patience. “He’s scared, Vito.”

“What’s he done?”

“I’ve seen the transcripts. He’s lost my trust. I think he knows.”

Vito heaves a sigh. “Okay.”

“Start the fucking car, will you?”

Pardon the Ravens is a fast-paced legal thriller from the author of Wrong Man Running and the writer and director of the films Nola, The Warrior Class, Reunion, and The Man on Her Mind. Alan Hruska tells the gripping story of what happens when a man lets his heart get in the way of his business affairs – and the consequences of crossing the man who controls organized crime in New York City during the Mad Men era.

Gifted young lawyer Alec Brno is given the chance of a lifetime to try a huge fraud case making international headlines – a case that might make him partner in a prestigious law firm. But he risks it all when he falls for an alluring young woman whose enraged husband is a sadistic Mafia don – and the criminal mastermind behind Alec's case.

Suddenly, Alec finds himself caught between saving the woman he's fallen for, pleasing the partners of his firm--and trying not to get killed in the process. This riveting ride blasts through Wall Street, the city's most dangerous neighborhoods and worlds where sex, drugs and unsolved murders hide behind every facade. Pardon the Ravens will grab you and not let go until the last page.

Pardon the Ravens is now available in paperback and digital editions!

Also by Alan Hruska...


"Beautifully written and beautifully imagined, this dark, spiraling, Kafkaesque nightmare might be the best psychological suspense you'll read this year - or this decade." – Lee Child

Attorney-turned-novelist Alan Hruska’s Wrong Man Running is the story of Corinth’s frantic search to find the man he thinks framed him and the psychological challenges of confronting the possibility that he might be liable for the heinous rapes several women have claimed he committed. Sharp and haunting, Hruska masterfully ratchets up the suspense in this deftly written novel, penning a taut legal thriller in the vein of Scott Turow and John Grisham.


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Alan Hruska is the author of the novel Wrong Man Running, the writer of several plays produced in New York and London, and the writer and director of the films Reunion, The Warrior Class, and, most recently, The Man on Her Mind. A New York native and a graduate of Yale University and Yale Law School, he is a former trial lawyer who was involved in the some of the most significant litigation of the last half of the twentieth century. Pardon the Ravens is his third novel.

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“Vividly real and quite compelling… Hruska really knows how to write; fans of legal-thriller stars like John Grisham, John Lescroart, William Lashner, and especially Scott Turow will want to add this fine novel to their must-read lists.”


“A classic legal thriller in the mold of Scott Turow, with a fiery heroine, a monster of a mobster, corporate villains, and a young lawyer fighting to win his first big case. The action is compelling in and out of the courtroom. Taut, lean storytelling with a great finish.”

Michael Sears

Award-winning author of Black Fridays and Mortal Bonds

"With the backdrop of Mad Men–era New York, Pardon the Ravens never fears to get dirty with style. Alan Hruska brings it all—sounds, smells, tastes, and attitude—to life with passion. Bravo!"

Cara Black

author of the New York Times bestselling Aimée Leduc series

“Grabs readers and leaves them hanging on for dear life… excellent dialogue and nonstop action.”

Suspense Magazine

“… an erudite legal thriller”

Library Journal

“The plot rockets along”

Kirkus Reviews

"Pardon the Ravens by Alan Hruska is a legal thriller that keeps the reader guessing as to who will prevail. Brno is a great character, one you would want on your side at all times. And you've got to admire his girl friend. She's got guts. Hruska, a graduate of Yale Law School and a former trial lawyer, is no stranger to writing or directing. Pardon the Ravens is his third novel. He rivals any of the other authors of legal thrillers."