Book Review: The Ex by Alafair Burke

the-exWhat’s it about?

Olivia Randall is one of New York City s best criminal defence lawyers. When she hears that her former fiancé, Jack Harris, has been arrested for a triple homicide and that one of the victims was connected to his wife’s murder there is no doubt in her mind as to his innocence. The only question is who would go to such great lengths to frame him and why?

For Olivia, representing Jack is a way to make up for past regrets, to absolve herself of guilt from a tragic decision, a secret she has held for twenty years. But as the evidence against him mounts, she is forced to confront her doubts. The man she knew could not have done this. But what if she never really knew him?

My thoughts

This book was recommended by a well trusted book blogger and as I love a good legal thriller I reserved a copy straight away from the library.

When someone comes back into your life after twenty years, that in itself can be awkward enough, but when that person is accused of a triple murder, well…are you gonna believe them or the evidence laid out in front of you?  Would you be able to know for sure they didn’t do it based on your relationship from such a long time ago? Would you stake your reputation on it? These are the situations Olivia finds herself in when she agrees to represent her ex-boyfriend.

Whilst a good premise and well paced, for me it just lacked something to grip me and I just wasn’t feeling the wow factor.  I didn’t really engage with Olivia, she comes across as stand-offish and cold and there was something off about Jack that I couldn’t feel much for him.  The only character I felt had some genuineness to them was Jack’s best friend Charlotte; prepared to pull out all the stops to help and protect her friend.

I didn’t guess the identity of the real killer so that’s a positive but once revealed I began to pull apart the plausibility of it all given the level of security already mentioned in the book earlier and what evidence the prosecution had.

Overall, this book took me nearly a week to read which is unusual for me for this genre.  It’s a decent enough mystery but I have read more thrilling thrillers!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon

Author links: Website | Twitter

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Book Review: The Racketeer by John Grisham

The RacketeerWhat’s it about?

Given the importance of what they do, and the controversies that often surround them, and the violent people they sometimes confront, it is remarkable that in the history of the USA only four active federal judges have been murdered.

Judge Raymond Fawcett just became number five.

His body was found in the small basement of a lakeside cabin he had built himself and frequently used on weekends. When he did not show up for a trial on Monday morning, his law clerks panicked, called the FBI, and in due course the agents found the crime scene. There was no forced entry, no struggle, just two dead bodies – Judge Fawcett and his young secretary.

I did not know Judge Fawcett, but I know who killed him, and why.

I am a lawyer, and I am in prison.

It’s a long story.

My thoughts

Just a quickie review for this Grisham novel as I’m a bit short on time this week but should be sufficient to get my feelings across….

Grisham is my go to comfort read which may sound strange given most of the books subject matter but hey that’s my book thing….some pick up Potter, I’ll go for a Grisham as his novels never disappoint me. This one was no different. It’s been a while since I read a Grisham novel and I was glad to be back in that legal thriller environment; particularly with the little guy vs the big bad US government.

Grisham novels aren’t difficult reading and I enjoyed the pace, the plot and the fact that it never goes where you think it’s going to go.  With plenty of beach scenes and shady off-shore banking reminiscent of The Firm I was totally engrossed and rooting for the guy in prison and hoping that his plan worked and even feeling sorry for the bad guy.

Read if you’re a Grisham fan or enjoy legal thrillers, although if you fancy trying Grisham for the first time I’d recommend A Time to Kill every time.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Book Review: Death by Dangerous by Olly Jarvis

Death by DangerousWhat’s it about?

Death by Dangerous is a compelling legal thriller set in Manchester and Bradford.

John Anderson is one of the North West’s most dedicated and successful prosecution barristers. His career is going from strength to strength and he is on the verge of becoming Queen’s Counsel. But the life he once knew suddenly comes crashing down following a fatal road traffic accident…



My thoughts

Regular readers will know I love a good legal thriller and I’m pleased to say I loved this book!

I’m a huge John Grisham fan and love American legal thrillers so I thought this book might be overshadowed by my expectations with it being UK based also. I needn’t have worried because this book didn’t disappoint and has everything I want in a legal thriller.

‘They’ say you should write about what you know and it’s quite clear that the author really knows his profession as I totally believed everything that was happening.  Each chapter has something going on of relevance and I never felt that they were just fillers.

There’s a great cast of characters; some to love and some to despise. I think Adey was my favourite as she reminded me of Kulinda from my fave show The Good Wife; gutsy and prepared to do almost anything to get to the truth which is not always on the right side of the law!

There’s sufficient police and legal procedure to ensure you understood what was happening and believable but without making it boring and is full of the pomp and circumstance of the English legal system that you’d expect (caps, gowns, wigs etc).

My only small minor teeny weeny concern is that some may be consider one of the suspects a little stereotypical and cliché but overall it works.

I hope to read more from Olly Jarvis and about his characters Anderson & Hussain as this debut was fast paced and tense with likeable characters and unpredictable twists…nothing else to say except give it a go!

Many thanks to Olly for sending me a copy for review purposes (although I did purchase a Kindle copy because I couldn’t get on with the pdf)

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

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Book Review: Theodore Boone; The Activist by John Grisham

Theodore Boone The ActivistWhat’s it about?

Theodore Boone, young lawyer, has had a lot to deal with in his thirteen years, everything from kidnapping to murder.

But he’s come through it all and, with the law on his side, justice has always prevailed.

Sometimes, though, the law doesn’t seem so just. His friend Hardie Quinn is about to have his family home bulldozed to make way for a bypass. Hardie is not the only one affected: other homes, businesses and schools lie in the path of the road. Theo has to tell his friend the bad news: for once, the law isn’t on his side, and there’s very little anyone can do to end the destruction.

Theo joins the campaign to stop the road. But when he stumbles on a terrible secret about the corrupt men behind the plan – a secret it is illegal for him to know – Theo must figure out how to keep the developers from breaking the law… without breaking it himself.

My thoughts

Having now read the 4th book in the Theodore Boone series I’m up to date with these. I know this series is targeted at younger teens but that doesn’t necessarily other age ranges won’t enjoy it. However, on this occasion I feel that the YA audience will be more appreciative; I found it a litle condescending with an incredibly rushed, predictable ending.

At one point I’d read 197 pages out of 289 and Theo hadn’t become an ‘activist’ and then it was like he became one overnight. Theo’s actually turning out to be an irritating right know-it-all and I hope John Grisham writes a book in the future where Theo is an adult and loses all his legal cases (bitter I know!)

Try the book anyway Paperback | Kindle

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Book Review: The Children Act by Ian McEwan

The Children ActWhat’s it about?

Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge, presiding over cases in the family court. She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude and sensitivity. But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife. There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now, her marriage of thirty years is in crisis.

At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: for religious reasons, a beautiful seventeen-year-old boy, Adam, is refusing the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents share his wishes. Time is running out. Should the secular court overrule sincerely held faith? In the course of reaching a decision Fiona visits Adam in hospital – an encounter which stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. Her judgment has momentous consequences for them both.

My thoughts

This was our book club choice for November and having not read Ian McEwan before, I was looking forward to trying a new author. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’s one I’ll read again.

In this book, Ian McEwan dissects a judicial career alongside a long-standing marriage over 5 loooong chapters. Fiona has really made it in her career but at what personal cost and sacrifices? In between the falling apart of her marriage, we’re privy to the cases that she is presiding over, all of which have some kind of moral or ethical dilemma; any of which would have made for interesting reading but McEwan concentrates on the case of a teenage Jehovah’s Witness refusing a blood transfusion and the relationship she forms with the patient and the professional dilemma that ensues.

It’s a highly intelligent, well written novel but it all felt so cold and clinical, and I found it really hard to warm to any of the characters. I found Jack to be completely arrogant, expecting that his wife of considerable years would be ok with him going off to have an affair. They were both as equally as frustrating in that they couldn’t communicate with each other and therefore their marriage lacked the passion they both still seemed to crave.

There are some parts that I would question the believability – I wasn’t entirely convinced that a judge of Fiona’s standing would visit the hospital and she would engage in the singing that she did – a minor point though.

Overall, an interesting view into judicial matters from an author who obviously knows his stuff, but slow and boring in places as it concentrates heavily on description; however it made for a very lively and interesting reading group discussion.

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