Review: Pleasantville by Attica Locke

9781781254097I used to love legal thrillers. They were the first crime books I got into when I was a teenager. There was a mystery but there was also an argument to made and refuted. Unlike other crime stories the legal thriller must get down to the bones of right and wrong, innocence and guilt. The good legal thriller shows that these waters are just as muddy and murky as out on the street. And when you add politics to the mix it gets even murkier.

Attica Locke announced herself as a writer to watch with Black Water Rising and in her new novel she returns to her main character, Jay Porter. Fifteen years on Jay has built his legal career on the massive payout he won against Cole Oil. Even though they have yet to pay Jay’s reputation has seen him take on other similar cases in Texas and Arkansas. But the recent death of his wife has left Jay shaken and changed his priorities on life and his legal career is now at the bottom of that list. All of which is about to change whether Jay wants it to or not.

Pleasantville has a long history in Houston. It was the first suburb opened up to African-American families after the Second World War and soon became an active voting block in the city’s elections. It has its own political power base led by Sam Hawthorne. Sam’s son, Axel is running for Mayor in what is promising to be a very close election. Pleasantville is once again at the center of fierce campaigning. When a young woman, apparently working for one of the campaigns, goes missing it sparks fears among Pleasantville’s residents as she is the third girl to go missing in recent years. When her body is found and Sam Hawthorne’s grandson is arrested, who also happens to be Axel’s campaign director, politics can’t help but become embroiled. All of which drags Jay Porter back into a courtroom.

This is a superb novel. Attica Locke blends the heated tension of city and suburban politics with the high drama of the courtroom and in doing so shows how easily distorted truth and justice can become. Politics is a tangled web at the best times of times but when big business, a small tight-knit community and money get involved it gets dangerous for all involved, especially the unwitting. And politics is ultimately about power and what people will do with it and the lengths they will go to hold on to it, no matter who gets in the way. Attica Locke tells the story in a way that is both gripping and personal and in doing so keeps you hooked to the final page and beyond.

Buy the book here…

Perfect reading for this time of year.

Book Review – The Gods of Guilt

9781743317532I can distinctly remember reading John Grisham as a teenager and really getting into the legal thriller but as his books began to resemble movie pitches rather than novels and as I began to discover more authors and other books I drifted away. When I got back into crime fiction I wasn’t after clearly defined genre and I gravitated to the darker side of crime where right and wrong are hard to define. The legal thriller generally is all about right and wrong. It is either about someone innocent trying to clear their name or a guilty person being brought to justice. They can often throw up some interesting moral dilemmas but at the end of the day the law manges to right all wrongs. Which as we all know is total bs.

I started ready the Mickey Haller series because I wanted to try Michael Connelly but didn’t want to commit to his extensive backlist. So when he began this series a few years back with The Lincoln Lawyer I found my way in. While the series isn’t as black as I usually take my crime it is nice and grey. Mickey Haller is one leg up from ambulance chaser. He’s a defence attorney who works out of his town car. He knows the law isn’t perfect and uses that to his advantage whenever he can. He also knows he’s an asshole and isn’t shy about who he defends. He gets manipulated about as much as his manipulates others and you can debate if justice was actually served at the end of each book.

What I love most about the books is the tactics of a trial. The to and fro between the defence and the prosecutor plus the permutations thrown up by an individual judge. Haller must navigate a minefield while on a tightrope and it makes for compelling reading. In the last book Connelly even switches things around by having Haller work for the District  Attorney.

The other thing I like about the books is Haller himself. He is not self-righteous (although he is extremely cocky) and his personal life is a complete disaster.

In the latest book Haller must defend a pimp accused of killing one of his escorts. Haller has a stale in the case as he knew the victim and knows there is more to this case than the police allege. Haller soon enters a high stakes game involving a Mexican drug cartel and corruption. As Haller’s case comes to head you are right in the thick of it and I found myself cursing and admonishing Haller for some of his decisions.

Perfect reading for this time of year.

Buy the book here…