Legal

“The 7th Canon” by Robert Dugoni

 

 

The 7th Canon of the American Bar Association code: “A lawyer should represent a client zealously within the bounds of the law.” Whenever that phrase is uttered in any media platform, it’s a dead giveaway that the case under consideration will be challenging. The defendant is in a lot of trouble and we, the audience, are in for a thrill ride.

 

Peter Donley, three years out of law school, is working for his Uncle Lou’s law firm in the Tenderloin section of San Francisco, not the best address in town. He is indebted to his uncle for helping him and his mother at a rough time in their lives and is grateful for the job, but a growing family dictates that it is time to move on. He has a plum offer and is about to give his uncle notice, when Lou is hospitalized with a heart attack.

 

Uncle Lou's biggest client is the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and when one of the priests is charged with the murder of a teenager in his care, as well as possible pornographic acts, Donley catches the case, since Lou will need time to recover. The assignment looks dicey, but Donley owes it to his uncle to follow the 7th canon.

 

Father Tom Martin, complete with shaved head, an earring, and a tattoo, is not the typical parish priest, but he’s just right for the boys’ shelter in the Tenderloin. He’s been the dedicated champion of this safe haven for street kids for years. The disconnect? The evidence points to the priest; there is blood everywhere and Tom had opportunity, if not motive. Thing is, he says he didn’t do it.

 

Fr. Tom is being railroaded, but why? And why is everyone in such a rush to file the motions and convict the guy?

 

Donley must deal with the murdered teen, elusive complicit witnesses, and the evidence found at the scene, all pushing him to his emotional limits. In the process, Donley’s personal demons are forced to the surface, and Dugoni delivers another complex central character. An ambitious DA, the Chief Prosecutor, the former Governor of California, and a cop gunning for revenge, are among the tightly drawn supporting cast. There are lots of secrets with people very interested in hiding them, and we are reminded that evil often wears a suit and tie.

 

This book (a dozen versions ago) was written before the critically acclaimed David Sloane series, but placed in a drawer in favor of other novels that were published at the time. “The 7th Canon” is a standalone novel, but fans of Dugoni since the beginning will recognize certain similarities between the Sloane/Jenkins team and the Donley/Ross team. It’s great fun to see the differences in personalities, and how they approach the cases, as well as the impact that their backgrounds have on their behavior and life choices. Fun fact: “The 7th Canon” is set in the late 1980s, so no emails or cellphones figure into the plot.

 

Politics, sex, police procedure, religion, abuse, and the courtroom, make for a powerful combination, and Dugoni has woven a masterful tapestry of suspense.

 

“The 7th Canon” is a finalist in the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award Fiction Adult Thriller category.  Well deserved!

 

*Note: contains adult situations/themes and sporadic adult language.

 

Read my review of “In the Clearing” here.

 

Please visit www.robertdugoni.com for information about Dugoni’s appearances, his awards, and his other terrific books. Read ‘em all, folks.  🙂

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:

“Dry Bones” by Craig Johnson

 

book-cover-dry-bones
 

Jen, a T-Rex and the center of the controversy in “Dry Bones,” is the largest specimen of its type ever found and it shows up in Sheriff Walt Longmire’s county. Longmire deals with all kinds of victims, but a dinosaur? That’s a new kind of cold case.

 

A skeleton of this importance would be a windfall for the local museum, but first Longmire must figure out if the High Plains Dinosaur Museum has the right to claim Jen as its own. When the Cheyenne owner of the ranch where Jen was found turns up dead, things get complicated. It’s possible that the T-Rex belongs to the Cheyenne Nation…or the federal government…or the family of the guy who died.

 

Tribal rights, family inheritance, federal property or just a really nice set of bones to display? An acting Deputy Attorney is out to make a name for himself and seems to feel that photo ops are more important than catching the bad guys or finding kidnap victims. But, he’s not the only one with priorities a tad off center in "Dry Bones." More people are interested in who gets the dinosaur than the circumstances behind the death of Danny Lone Elk. 

 

With Jen crowding Walt’s holding cells while ownership is being determined, and the interested parties holding Walt’s office hostage, the Sheriff realizes that the only way he can get back to the business for which he was elected is to solve the mystery of Danny Lone Elk’s death and find the gal (also Jen) who discovered the T-Rex to begin with.

 

It’s a circus.

 

There are helicopter forays into the back country, harrowing visits to an old mine, entertaining interactions with ever wise-cracking Lucien, Henry Standing Bear saving the day as only he can, and more near misses for Walt than our hearts can stand. Did I mention bullets flying? And the terrifying prospect of Walt taking care of his grand-daughter? He’s not afraid of many bad guys, but the little one? Waaay too funny.

 

We are treated to Craig Johnson’s dry wit, in several LOL scenes, with Walt’s delivery always perfectly timed. A man of few words, but good ones.

 

In real life, that entire region of the country is an active dinosaur bone recovery area with several universities and museums conducting legitimate digs. People love a cool dinosaur, so finding the big ones can cement the reputation – and therefore the funding – of an institution for many years.

 

In “Dry Bones,” Johnson explores the ethics of taking artifacts away from the people upon whose land they were found. It’s not just dino bones that are being removed from their place of origin. World-wide, governments are seeking to recover long lost treasures robbed from centuries old graves, temples, and ruins. Find the treasures? Great. Remove them from the place of origin without permission or proper compensation? These days, that’s a long jail term in the making.

 

Read Craig Allen Johnson’s Author Profile here.

 

Read the review of “The Cold Dish” here.

 

Read the review of “Kindness Goes Unpunished” here.

 

Please visit www.craigallenjohnson.com for lots of information about Mr. Johnson and his work, his future appearances, and his online store.

 

Please follow and like us:

Top 10: The First Four Years of Nightstand Book Reviews

 

Book Cover - Cold Dish

The first four years of Nightstand Book Reviews delivered a wide range of books to my doorstep and to my email inbox. Right from the beginning, I have received more than 100 requests a month (once over 400) from writers and publicists and friends of writers and publicists to review the latest book they had to offer.

 

It has been a fun problem to have. The strategy was (and remains) to choose great reads to chat about and share with the thousands of Nightstand Book Reviews followers around the world. The books on the site are by and large fiction, and tell a well-plotted story involving nicely developed characters. The authors are a mix of bestselling writers of longstanding, and newbies to the field when I first met them. Traditionally published or ebook only? Both happily co-exist on NBR. Occasionally I highlight biographies, great cookbooks, and helpful gardening books. A new feature in 2016 was Author Profiles. You’ll see more of those in 2017.

 

Below is the list of Top 10 books reviewed on Nightstand Book Reviews over the last four years, listed in ABC order by author. These were the books that garnered the most interest on NBR from the worldwide audience during the four years. Six books on the list were the debut novels from those authors. Some powerhouse writers (long, successful careers with great popularity) mixed in with newbies? A good book is a good book.

 

All of these authors now have multiple books out. Click on the book title to read the review.

 

Lee Child – “The Killing Floor”

 

Robert Dugoni – “My Sister’s Grave”

 

Robert Dugoni – “The Conviction”

 

Sherry Harris – “Tagged for Death”

 

Sue Harrison – “Mother Earth, Father Sky”

 

Erin Hart – “Haunted Ground”

 

Tami Hoag – “Alibi Man”

 

Craig Johnson – “The Cold Dish”

 

Leigh Perry – “A Skeleton in the Family”

 

Andy Weir – “The Martian”

 

 

Have you read any of the titles on the list? Wildly different books to be sure, with thrillers, sci-fi, traditional mysteries, and cozies in the group. 

 

And soooo much fun to read.  🙂

 

Thank you all, kind readers, for being part of the Nightstand Book Reviews community during the first four years. Your comments and participation make me smile as I search for the next great read to share with you.

 

Please follow and like us:

“The Conviction” by Robert Dugoni

 

Book Cover - CONVICTION

 

Top Seattle attorney, David Sloane, may be at home in the courtroom and able to outsmart his opponents, but he is out of his element when dealing with his troubled stepson.

 

Sloane’s wife has died and he has relinquished custody of his stepson to Jake’s biological father who lives in California, a move that has confused and angered Jake. “The Conviction” opens with Jake’s future at stake after he has been arrested for public intoxication (for the second time) and property damage. The judge decides to give him one last chance to straighten himself out in rehab or else go to jail. She assigns responsibility for Jake’s attendance to Sloane and they head back to Seattle.

 

Rather than re-bonding with his stepfather, Jake remains sullen and resentful. He’s back in the house where he witnessed his mother being murdered and can’t get past his grief and rage. When Jake and David are invited to go on a camping trip with an old friend and detective, Tom Molia, and his son, T.J., it looks as if a week in the woods might be a great way to reconnect with this young stranger that David no longer understands.

 

But instead, Jake tries to buy beer and cigarettes with fake ID on the first day of the trip, and drags T.J. along with him. The storeowner confiscates the ID, but the boys return later and break in, taking liquor and a rifle along with the recovered ID. Of course, they get caught by the police soon after, but not before they get drunk and shoot up the woods close to town. Sounds like a mess, with T.J. a reluctant participant, driven by his need to be accepted.

 

The boys are tried, convicted and sentenced to time in a local juvenile detention center (Fresh Start) before their fathers even know they’re missing from their room. That’s only the beginning of the nightmare that ensues.

 

The fathers attempt to get Jake and T.J. retried and released, or at least moved to a facility closer to home, but are stymied by the cops and judge in this small California town that seem to skirt constitutional rights. Sloane and Molia suspect corruption, but with what motive, what payoff?

 

Dugoni delivers an alarming story of a juvenile legal system gone horribly wrong, with teenaged inmates working as virtual slaves in boot camps, rather than receiving the rehab and guidance advertised in the fancy brochures. He takes a look at teens who make poor choices despite the help available, and the serious consequences awaiting them. Dugoni never implies that Jake and T.J. should not be punished for their actions, merely that they be counseled on their rights and then sentenced appropriately.

 

At Fresh Start, Jake grows up quickly when he discovers that something more is going on at the camp beyond their re-education, and that knowledge could get him and T.J. killed before David can get them out. The parallel plotline of the fathers trying to free the boys, while working against the clock and being threatened themselves, is gripping.

 

“The Conviction” moves from legal suspense to thriller mode in this pulse-pounding, page-turning, sleep-robbing tale. I had several ‘gasp’ moments as Dugoni built tension and advanced the dramatic story.

 

There are no false notes. Jake’s ability to deal with whatever is thrown at him physically, is set up early on and the action involving the supporting characters is completely believable, given their backgrounds. Those supporting characters, whether adults who oppose (or side with) Sloane and Molia, or teens who battle (or help) Jake and T.J., are so clearly drawn that I kept casting them in a movie in my mind’s eye.

 

This is the fifth book in the David Sloane series and in my opinion, the best so far.

 

Read the review of "Wrongful Death" here. Go to www.robertdugoni.com for information about all of his projects and where you can catch his next terrific writing class.

 

 

Please follow and like us:

“Guilt by Association” by Marcia Clark

 

Book Cover - Guilt by Association

Rachel Knight is an L.A. prosecutor in the Special Trials unit of the D.A.s office. She handles hi-pressure, complex, high-profile situations, a job that never seems to have down time. She’s top in her unit, winning tough cases because of her ability to outsmart the defense attorneys and to see that justice is done. She’s a workaholic and she loves every minute.

 

When one of her closest colleagues, Jake Pahlmeyer, is found dead in a rat-hole of a motel, next to a teen whose nude photo Jake had in his pocket, Knight is profoundly shaken. She doesn’t believe any of the rumors flying around and seeks to find a reasonable explanation for Jake’s presence at the grim crime scene. She has little support – she’s even told to stay out of the inquiry more than once. But, of course, she can’t.

 

Jake’s cases are divided up and Knight is given one of his toughest – the rape of the daughter of a politically connected doctor. The doctor points the finger at a gang member the daughter was tutoring, but Knight, ever the skeptic, feels the facts don’t support the ‘too-easy’ theory. The family lives in a gated community, so access is limited and checked. It’s a mystery that needs to be solved before an innocent young man, however gang-connected, is railroaded.

 

As we get to know the quick-tongued, extremely bright Rachel Knight, we realize that she will never let the opinions of others slow her down, that she will protect the victims, that she is tough-skinned, but soft-hearted when it comes to the children and underdogs in the cases before her. She is shot at, threatened, bruised, finds her car vandalized, is compelled to wear a bulletproof vest, and yet still keeps after the truth in the two puzzling investigations. 

 

Yes, THAT Marcia Clark, has written a taut, complex legal thriller in “Guilt by Association” that never sets foot in the courtroom. Clark brings her prosecuting experience into play as we follow Knight through the gang areas of L.A. and in and out of jails, as Knight plays ‘bend-the-rules’ to her advantage even with the threat of suspension hanging over her head, as she interacts with her co-workers, as she navigates the surprising twists and turns of the sometimes ugly story of life on the street.

 

The supporting cast in “Guilt by Association” is fully developed and as interesting as Rachel Knight. The beautiful, commitment-phobic Special Trials lawyer Toni, the tough-as-nails, savvy Detective Bailey Keller, the hunky cop Graden Hales, and the compelling victims – all have distinct voices and realistic parts to play in this well-written novel. As we read the banter between the friends, we see people we’d want as colleagues, people who roll their eyes at each other’s gaffes, people we’d like to see in a sequel.

 

Marcia Clark spoke at a Crimewriters’ conference I attended and I now have an autographed copy of “Guilt by Association.” Please visit www.marciaclarkbooks.com to find out more about her other Rachel Knight books, as well as the non-fiction title that explores Clark’s role in the O.J. Simpson trial.

 

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:

“The Brass Verdict” by Michael Connelly

 

 

The Brass Verdict CoverI discovered this book (and author) while at Thrillerfest, a thriller/mystery/suspense  writers’ workshop held annually in NYC during July. During breaks between sessions, Barnes and Noble opens a store for the guests, both writers and speakers. I rubbed elbows with bestselling author, Steve Martini, who was checking out the competition and buying books like the rest of us mere mortals. He picked up “Brass Verdict” and I followed his lead.

 

“Brass Verdict” is a gritty legal thriller featuring a lawyer (Mickey Haller) and a police detective (Harry Bosch) who bring scum to justice.

 

Each character has been featured in a Connelly series of his own, but in “Brass Verdict,” the two work on the same case, not always together. Bosch is the investigating detective dealing with the murder of a lawyer and Haller inherits the dead man’s practice. That inheritance places Haller in danger and also gives him a chance to try his biggest case yet. Bosch will stop at nothing to catch the lawyer’s killer and Haller just might be his prime suspect.

 

Bosch and Haller are both flawed in their own grumpy, wrinkled way, each has interesting baggage and the pairing of the two characters is terrific!

 

In the big reveal near the end of the book, we find out why they have been brought together in “Brass Verdict.” The novel is so well crafted that I became a big Connelly fan and have read several other titles since, most notably "The Lincoln Lawyer" and "The Black Echo."

 

Connelly famously sat in on poker games (playing himself) in “Castle,” the TV show, and when he once ribbed the fictional author about only writing one book a year, I wondered how many Connelly himself, had written. The man is prolific, having published twenty-five novels in twenty years. Fifty million copies of Connelly’s books have sold worldwide and have been translated into thirty-nine languages. He has won the Edgar Award, Anthony Award, and Macavity Award, among several others.

 

For more information about Connelly, his various series as well as movies based on his books, visit www.michaelconnelly.com

 

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:

“Innocent” By Scott Turow

Book cover - Innocent

 

When a bestselling author returns to a book he wrote twenty years ago (“Presumed Innocent”) and writes a sequel to it (“Innocent”), we wonder whether he might just have run out of new ideas. In Scott Turow’s case, that wondering would be dead wrong.  What Turow has done is lift the art of the sequel to new heights.

 

Rusty Sabich, now a sitting appellate court chief judge, has been accused of murdering a second woman in his life and Tommy Molto, prosecuting attorney, is out to get him again, this time with a bigger grudge and bigger stakes.

 

Both men are at the top of their careers and neither wants to lose the case, because the loser’s life achievements would be forgotten in the media bloodbath that follows. But, Molto knows in his heart that Sabich was guilty the first time and got away with it. Sabich has secrets to hide and Sandy Stern is back as Rusty’s lawyer, trying to keep his client from tossing away everything.

 

Nat, Rusty’s son, plays a pivotal role in this courtroom drama – no plot spoiler here, but it’s a good one! Can a family ever recover from the fallout of a criminal case? Do the rifts caused by affairs ever heal? Do the children caught in the middle ever forget? Are people doomed to hold onto their flaws throughout life?

 

As I lay awake through the night reading “Innocent,” I was gripped with the questions: Did Sabich do it this time or didn’t he? And…my mind began to doubt whether he really did do it in “Presumed Innocent” after all.

 

Enough information is given about the case in “Presumed Innocent” to inform the reader, so "Innocent" can be a stand alone, but don’t let it be. The first book was a genre breaker and a great read as well. If you can’t find “Presumed Innocent” on the shelves anywhere, pick up a DVD of the Harrison Ford movie of the same name to catch the dynamics that drove the old rivalry between the major players.

 

For more information about Scott Turow and his body of work, visit www.scottturow.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:
Scroll to Top