legal

Thirteen – Steve Cavanagh

Title – Thirteen

Author – Steve Cavanagh

Published – January 2018

Genre –  Legal / Thriller

If you haven’t heard of this book you’ve probably not been on social media this year – not only has there been a concerted campaign to promote the book but I’ve yet to hear a bad word about it. The book is the fourth in the ‘Eddie Flynn’ series and despite not having been a huge fan of Cavanagh’s debut I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Things have moved on for Flynn since the end of the first book, but not so much that I felt I didn’t know what was going on. He’s representing small-time clients, sleeping in his office and outsmarting the wrong people. Out of the blue he’s approached by a high-flying lawyer who wants Flynn to join him on a case representing a young Hollywood star, Bobby Solomon, accused of murdering his wife and chief of security. Initially reluctant to become involved Flynn is persuaded that the case isn’t as open and shut as it appears and his meeting with Bobby clinches the deal.

There are two points of view in the story – one is Flynn (in the first person) and the other is a mysterious character (third person) called Kane who is on a no-holds-barred quest that will see his involvement in the courtroom. Swapping between the points of view and knowing what’s happening (without perhaps understanding the purpose) is a great way of making the book compelling – you really want to keep reading to see how things will fit together.

I’m purposely trying to avoid spoilers, this is a book that would be better enjoyed letting it unfold as you read. There are some particularly devious moments and afterwards you do have to wonder how the author came up with them! Flynn remains a likeable character who takes his fair share of knocks – both physical and emotional – but has a decent moral compass. Kane on the other hand, despite being a monster, is depicted as being completely rational, although what’s acceptable behaviour to him isn’t quite the same as it is for the rest of us…

The Defence isn’t the first debut I’ve read where the author tries to pack too much in (and I don’t suppose it will be the last) and you wonder what the author has left themselves with for the future but in Thirteen Cavanagh shows that he can maintain the reader’s interest with fewer threads to the story but really smart plotting of those that remain. I can certainly see shades of early Scott Turow in this book and it’s going to be one to look out for on future awards lists.

Many thanks to the publisher for the NetGalley.

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The Confession – John Grisham

Title – The Confession

Author – John Grisham

Published – 2010

Genre – Legal thriller

I’ve read a little less in 2017 than in recent years and there haven’t been any particular books that stood out as a ‘five star’ read but by the skin of its teeth this book gets that accolade. Apart from anything else it’s a book that’s haunting me – it’s a number of days since I finished it but I can’t shake off some of the aspects and issues that the book brought up.

Although written some years ago it feels like a particularly timely read and in fact the situation in the US may be worse now than it was when the book was published.

Donté Drumm is four days from execution in Texas for a murder he was found guilty of committing nine years earlier. On the Monday morning Travis Boyette, a serial rapist who is on parole, approaches a priest in a small town in Kansas confessing to the crime for which Donté is due to be executed. Reverend Keith Schroeder knows nothing of the case but when he researches it as quickly as he can he can see the obvious short-comings of the case against the young black boy accused of killing a white woman. Keith must decide what he will do and what he will risk – will he believe the man in front of him and attempt to stop the execution.

In Texas Donté’s passionate lawyer, Robbie Flak, is trying every last option that his team can put together to get a stay on the execution, no matter how unlikely the chances of success.

As the time scheduled for the execution approaches tension on the streets of Donté’s hometown increases as this becomes a clearly divided race issue.

The book offers tension at every turn – will the priest risk committing a crime and aide Boyette to cross the state line, will anyone be able to save Donté, will the tension in the town boil over. And as the present-day story unfolds the reader also finds out more about Donté and his arrest and subsequent confession as well as the damage to his sanity as he spends years on death row.

The book deals with two social issues – the first is the railroading of an innocent black man into confessing to a crime he didn’t commit and then the acceptance of this by those in authority over evidence that contradicts it. The other is the use of the death penalty and the possibility of making the most unthinkable error.

It also touches on grief, I’ve been careful to avoid spoilers and this isn’t one, the family of the murdered young woman see the execution as their right and may not be willing to find that the years they’ve spent hating one person were mis-placed.

The characters are brilliantly well executed (if you’ll excuse the pun). The cautious priest, the zealous lawyer, the damaged young black man, the loathsome felon, the corrupt politicians – they call came to life on the page.

Grisham is known for his activism in trying to exonerate wrongly convicted prisoners and this isn’t appealing to everyone. I’m not sure if there have been any changes in the application of the death penalty since the book was published but it’s a relief that it’s an issue we don’t have to contend with in the UK. Not a cheerful read but one that will make you think and a pacey, twisting thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat.

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Ford County – John Grisham

61avjhwpgxlTitle – Ford County

Author – John Grisham

Published – 2009

Genre – Legal

Ford County is the setting for a number of Grisham’s trademark legal thrillers, including A Time to Kill, and in this case provides the location for a series of short stories.

Following quickly on the heels of 20th Century Ghosts this was another disappointing collection of short stories. I had expected that because the stories shared the same setting that they would have something in common –  a location, a character or similar thread providing a connection, but no. In fact the setting didn’t seem particularly important and if they had been set in a number of different locations I’m not sure it would have made any difference.

The stories themselves were based around a legal premise although not all involved lawyers but for the most part they seemed to lack much in thrills, or legal twists. At best focussing on the characters in the stories and often delivering a moral message these weren’t engaging and I felt as if they were working towards some sort of climax but they failed to carry through.

Not a collection I would recommend.

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The Defence – Steve Cavanagh

518ryjTfPrL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Title – The Defence

Author – Steve Cavanagh

Published – March 15

Genre –  Legal / Thriller

Eddie Flynn is an ‘ex’ – he’s an ex-husband, an ex-con artist and and ex-lawyer. The man pointing the gun at him in the gripping opening doesn’t seem to be aware of any of this. He wants Flynn to get a bomb into a courtroom on the pretext of defending his boss (Olek Volchek, the head of the Russian mafia in New York) on a murder charge. As if the gun and the bomb weren’t enough (not to mention the ex-partner!) they’re holding his ten year-old daughter hostage.

It’s a thrilling opening. He has to defend Volchek on a murder charge in court on the day he is ‘persuaded’ to become a human bomb and the clock is ticking – he only has forty eight hours before the bomb explodes and the Russians leave him to his fate. As Flynn starts by complying with the kidnapper’s demands he draws on the skills he used in the past when he was lawyer and before that a con artist. He’s determined not to let any harm come to his daughter and is prepared to do anything in order to protect her.

The first person helps to draw the reader in and Flynn is a likeable character, I could see something of the TV character MacGyver  in him. Although the plot flies along, the pace was interrupted by backstory and it sometimes felt as if Cavanagh was trying to cram all his brilliant ideas for scams in to the one story.

I can see the appeal in the unusual mix of legal/thriller/scam but the combination was too much for me. Thank you to the publisher for the netgalley. You can see another point of view on Raven’s blog.

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The Associate – John Grisham

Title – The Associate

Author – John Grisham

Published – 2009

Genre – Legal thriller

It seems like a long time since I’ve read anything by Grisham – the fact that this was published in 2009 tells me that it’s at least four years.  Despite that, it all felt very familiar – brilliant legal student Kyle McAvoy has a secret that catches up with him and he becomes embroiled in a world of espionage. Forced to change his plans from working in legal aid helping migrant workers he has no choice but to take a job as an associate working in New York for the largest law firm in the world. I was pleased when it became clear that Kyle wasn’t going to accept the situation and just wait out events, and the bulk of the story is about his efforts to outwit those who have seemingly trapped him.

This is more about spying than it is a courtroom drama but there’s plenty of legal flavour as Kyle gets to grips with his new role. The picture Grisham paints of the dreadful hours and hard work of these lowly “grunts” made me tired just reading it, but a reminder of the ridiculous money involved and the promise of the $$ they can earn as partners does make the sympathy evaporate quite quickly. As ever Grisham’s writing makes an effortless read with plenty of tension and this is ideal beach reading for me (too bad we don’t have the weather for it).

I have seen some reviews that criticise the ending, but whilst it’s actually the sort of end I might be disappointed by I thought the tension kept up until the last page and I was happy with the conclusion of the story.

Score – 4/5