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The Divorce Papers

By Susan Rieger

Crown

480 pages, $25

By Stephanie Shapiro

NEWS BOOK REVIEWER

Author Susan Rieger’s credentials include teaching at law school and writing about the law for newspapers and magazines, so she is well-acquainted with human frailty. In spades.

Rookie criminal lawyer Sophie Diehl is assigned by default to a divorce case. “I don’t like client contact … I like that most of my clients are in jail. They can’t get to me. I can only get to them,” she tells her supervisor, in vain.

Whenever she explains why she is totally unsuited to handling divorce, someone points out how much divorcing couples are like her regular clients. The characters span the entire social ladder. Phonies abound: “The oysters were wonderful, especially with the Champagne. Why eat anything else, as Isak Dinesen believed,” a judge tells her.

It would spoil the story to tell who really took an earth mover to the client’s Manhattan front yard, uprooting a landmark tree, because the bloodthirsty parties to the case include so many possible suspects.

This is truly a laugh-out-loud book whose author is smarter than a lot of writers and knows how to turn – and twist – a phrase.

Rieger understands that having her characters marinating in rage enables her to juggle conflict after conflict with hilarious results: Sophie trying to get off the divorce case; the two divorcing egomaniacs; her colleagues undermining her in office politics and more.

The book is funny and doesn’t need to strain for a laugh. The situations take care of that.

Stephanie Shapiro is a former News writer and editor.