legal

“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.

 

 

 

 

“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

 

 

 

 

“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

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Wrongful Death” by Robert Dugoni

 

Book Cover - Wrongful Death2

David Sloane comes off a big courtroom win (the 18th in a row) and seems unstoppable in the legal arena. Then, an impossible situation is placed before him: challenge the military to acknowledge a widow’s claim that her husband died a wrongful death while fighting for his country. What should be an easy case to turn down, becomes a personal issue when a preliminary review of the paperwork indicates something stinks. But, what?

 

The case evolves into a legal grenade tossed into the world of government contracts and the big players involved. The damage is messy and unpredictable. Sloane’s family is threatened, witnesses are dying and the stakes are higher than anyone had imagined. He calls on friend and former CIA operative turned P.I., Charles Jenkins, to help find answers and arrange protection for his new wife and stepson.

 

Bestselling author and former lawyer, Robert Dugoni, has written a legal thriller that combines courtroom drama with explosive investigation in the field and flashbacks to a military convoy traveling through hostile Iraqi territory. Dugoni reveals some of the facts of the Iraqi operation through the eyes of the dead man being defended.

 

“Wrongful Death” flows seamlessly between the flashbacks and present day events and was tough to put down. Almost none of the action seems far-fetched. Dugoni has created a suspenseful story so realistic that I can imagine a lawyer and his family being thrust into these circumstances and then dealing with the fallout in just these ways – if I had two top-notch operatives as friends.

 

Kudos to Dugoni for writing the two lead women in the book (wife-Tina, bodyguard-Alex) as smart and resourceful without becoming cartoonish; relying on brains to stay alive. And the action involving Sloane that is a little over the top, is just plain fun. Who wouldn’t want a tank coming to the rescue, just when you need it?

 

I met Robert Dugoni when he was teaching a writing class at a NYC conference. “Wrongful Death,” the second in the ‘David Sloane’ strand, had just come out and Dugoni autographed the book for me. I’m especially delighted that I waited in line because this one is a keeper. An equally intelligent screenplay would make for a great movie.

 

"Wrongful Death" (2009) was followed by "Bodily Harm," (2010) "Murder One," (2011) and "The Conviction." (2012) Dugoni has written other, stand-alone novels, as well as co-authoring a non-fiction title, “The Cyanide Canary,” a true crime story.

 

For more information about Robert Dugoni and his work, visit www.robertdugoni.com