Book Review: Almost Damned by Christopher Leibig #BookReview

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Defense attorney Samson Young has an uncanny ability to get even the so-called worst clients off the hook, as he ably demonstrated in Almost Mortal. In Almost Damned, little does Sam know that his most challenging cases are all leading up to one monumental trial, in which he will lay before the Court the visceral complexities of good vs. evil.

As Sam navigates his cases in Bennet County, it becomes increasingly apparent that his clients-old and new-are surprisingly interconnected, especially when old clients rise from the dead. Literally. He and his office are besieged by death threats and mysterious invitations, each one a clue that compels him to dig deeper into his own past. With each new discovery, Sam leads himself and his team deeper into a nether world in an attempt to bring redemption to his toughest clients of all-the descendants of the biblical Fallen Angels who have been walking the earth as humans for centuries, unable to find peace.

Almost Damned is the second book by Christopher Leibig featuring defense attorney Samson Young, following on from Almost Mortal. I am grateful to publicist Sabrina Dax for inviting me to review the book and to the author and publisher for providing me with copies of both books for this purpose. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

Regular readers of the blog will know that legal thrillers are one of my favourite genres and I consider myself to be a bit of a connoisseur, having read pretty much every author of note over the years. However, I have never read one like this before. Christopher Leibig has combined the legal thriller genre with a paranormal twist to come up with something quite unique and intriguing.

Although Almost Damned can be read as a standalone, I would recommend reading Almost Mortal first, as it sets up events for the second book and will give you a great understanding of Samson and his past and why he finds himself in the position as lawyer for the Fallen Angels. It will also ease you in to Christopher’s style of writing, which is elaborate, complex and detailed and requires a certain level of concentration.

When you pick up the books, they seem quite thin, but they pack a huge punch. The world the author has built is rich and elaborate, mixing historical flashbacks and esoteric ideas with the very modern and immediate world of law. It is a juxtaposition that could be an uncomfortable jumble, but the author sorts through it with confidence and panache. However, it does require attention from the reader to keep up, this is not a quick easy read.

I thought the author’s portrayal of the legal world was very accurate, showing the hurly burly and every day jumble that legal defence practice is. Some books have lawyers focusing on one case at a time, with leisure to pursue every lead to their hearts content. This isn’t the reality. In reality, lawyers juggle dozens of cases all at once, jumping from one to the next in the blink of an eye and having to have recall of all the facts at their fingertips. This really comes across in the writing here, and I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the book.

When it comes to the other aspect of the novel, the trial of the Fallen Angels in front of a jury of Archangels, here we are reaching the heights of philosophy and religious dogma, and it isn’t going to be for everyone. Some of the ideas explored here are an intellectual reach, and had me pondering what he was saying for a long while after I had finished the book. It is a bold and brave idea to explore, and he carries it off very well, but I did wonder how he came up with it. It would not be a genre blend I would ever have contemplated attempting but it does make for a very fascinating and individual read.

I don’t think these books will be for everyone, they are a densely-packed mix of ambitious and elaborate ideas with frenetic activity, lavish language and numerous characters, all with more than one name. They require attention while reading, not an idle way to pass a lazy afternoon, but reward the reader with a new and beguiling world to explore. I would recommend them to someone who is always on the hunt for that outlier novel that pushes the boundaries of what has been done before.

Almost Damned will be released in ebook and paperback formats on 1 April and you can pre-order it here. The first book in the series, Almost Mortal, is out now and you can get it here.

About the Author

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Christopher Leibig is a novelist and criminal defense lawyer who lives and works in Alexandria, Virginia. His first two published books, Saving Saddam(a 2008 novel about the trial of Saddam Hussein) and Montanamo (a 2010 novel about Guantanamo Bay detainees being housed in a small Montana town’s prison) were published by Artnik Books in London. Saving Saddam was re-released in 2014 under its original American title, The Black RabbitChris also has several published short stories – Secret Admirer (The Cynic on-line magazine 2004) Coldcocked (Skyline magazine 2004), Fly (The Cynic on-line magazine 2009), Intervention (Traveller’s Playground Press 2014), and Paradise City (Traveller’s Playground Press 2014). The Black Rabbit, MontanamoIntervention, and Paradise City are also available on audiobook by Audible.

Chris’s law firm, the Law Office of Christopher Leibig, represents individuals charged with or being investigated for serious criminal offenses throughout Virginia and in Washington. DC. His firm has received numerous awards and recognitions, including inclusion in Washingtonian Magazine’s Top Lawyers in Criminal Defense every year since 2011. Chris has also published numerous articles on criminal defense and related politics – including in the Huffington Post and The Examiner – and appeared as a legal expert regularly since 2009 in print and television media – including Fox News, CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Sports Illustrated. In recent years Chris has regularly handled high profile criminal cases in the DC area and travelled abroad to speak to law schools. Since 2012, Chris and his colleagues have lectured on criminal defense throughout Virginia, and in Scotland, Ireland, Trinidad, The Bahamas, Jamaica, and Denmark.

Connect with Christopher:

Website: https://chrisleibig.com/

Facebook: Chris Leibig

Twitter: @chrisleibig

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Book Review: The Man in Black – Peter Moore: Wales’ Worst Serial Killer by Dylan Rhys Jones #BookReview

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The true story of former criminal defence lawyer Dylan Rhys Jones’ experience of defending Rhyl serial killer Peter Moore, found guilty in 1996 of murdering four men and seriously assaulting many more, and referred to by the judge when sentencing as as dangerous a man as it is possible to find.

I am happy to be posting my review today of The Man in Black by Dylan Rhys Jones. My thanks to the author for inviting me to review his book and providing me with a digital copy for that purpose. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

I don’t read true crime books. It’s not something that interests me, reading about the depravity that some human beings are capable of and I’m not in the habit of celebrating or glamourising these criminals until they become some kind of twisted celebrity. However, when I was approached by Dylan to review his book, I agreed because this is a different type of true crime novel. It focuses on the experience of a solicitor who is called upon to represent a serial killer in his legal case. As a non-practising solicitor myself, I was really fascinated to read about this experience first hand in a non-fictional book. It is something that every law student imagines when they are studying criminal law at university, but very, very few ever experience.

I first decided I wanted to be a lawyer aged 13, because of the TV show, Crown Court. I don’t know how many of you will remember this programme (if you’ve never seen it, Google it), but I was obsessed with it. At the time, I was convinced it was real, I didn’t realise it was fictional, and I was determined I was going to become a criminal barrister. At university, I found the criminal law module of my degree fascinating but, as I studied and then began my training contract in a firm, it became clear that I was no advocate and that my talents lay in the non-contentious area of corporate law and mergers and acquisitions. The practice of criminal law is not much like the portrayals you see on TV. It is much darker, dirtier and depressing than you see, but so, so necessary for the justice system to operate fairly and I have nothing but admiration for the people who make this their vocation – because this is what it is. They are not in it for the fame or fortune, but because they are called to help people.

All of this becomes very clear when you read this book by Dylan Rhys Jones, as he describes to you his experience of being the solicitor charged with acting on behalf of serial killer, Peter Moore in the mid-1990s. The book focuses on his emotional reaction to dealing with this depraved man, the long term effects it had on him personally and his impressions of Peter Moore as an individual. It is absolutely riveting. Very, very few of us will ever have such close, personal contact with someone accused of such evil acts, and to read about how Dylan interacted with this man, accused of some totally heinous acts, what effect having to become so intimately acquainted with the horrendous crimes he committed, the long-lasting psychological effects it had on him – well, it will open the eyes of anyone who has ever wondered how criminal lawyers can represent such criminals and how it feels to be ‘taking their side.’

Despite the fact this is focused mostly on the legal side of the case and the solicitor, and does not portray things from the killer’s side or try to get in to his mind, there are still some graphic descriptions of the crimes and parts of it are deeply disturbing. For me, the toll that representing someone like Peter Moore takes on his legal team is possibly the most disturbing part and just confirmed to me what heroes these people are. Criminals need robust legal representation, regardless of what they are accused of, for our adversarial legal system to operate fairly, but criminal defence lawyers are regularly scorned and maligned. Anyone reading this book should come away with a much clearer and fairer understanding of why their job is vital and what they sacrifice in order to do it. If you don’t come away with massive sympathy for the author at the end of this book, I would be amazed.

This book is really honest, well-written and compelling. I was gripped from beginning to end by Dylan’s vivid descriptions of what he went through in representing this man, and I came away with so much admiration for him. I have never been more sure that I made the right decision not to become a criminal law solicitor, I would never have been robust enough to survive it, and also reminded me why I don’t read true crime books. This is a must read for anyone who wants to see the story of a serial killer from a unique and completely different angle.

The Man in Black is out now in paperback and ebook formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Former criminal defence lawyer Dylan Rhys Jones has also lectured on Ethics and the Law at medical conferences, and is a regular lecturer on Law and Criminology. He is not only a marker and moderator for the WJEC Criminology examination, but was also co-writer of the examination as well as contributing to the inception, writing and thereafter presenting of the Criminal Justice and Offender Management foundation degree course at Coleg Cambria and Chester University.

He is a regular contributor on radio news programmes and programmes about politics and the law and has also worked on numerous TV programmes. He is currently working on a TV documentary about the Peter Moore case.

Connect with Dylan:

Twitter: @drjdylan

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Blog Tour: Double Deceit by Julienne Brouwers #BookReview

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What if you were framed for a murder you didn’t commit? 

Jennifer Smits is a young mother, married to a hotshot lawyer and living in Amsterdam. Her world explodes when her husband is found dead at a holiday park during a weekend getaway. Convinced that the police have failed in their investigation, she embarks on a desperate quest for the truth – but the deeper she digs, the more she gets enmeshed in a tangled web of lies, spun by a ruthless law firm.

As Jennifer’s search for answers intensifies, her grip on reality weakens. Barely able to manage her patients at the health clinic, or take care of her young son, Jennifer is at risk of losing it all – even her closest friends begin to desert her. And then a chance encounter with a charming stranger sparks a new chain of events that plunges her deeper into a world of threats and corruption. Soon, she begins to fear for her life – but who can she trust, and how far will she go in pursuit of the truth?

I am delighted to be sharing my review today of Double Deceit by Julienne Brouwers. My thanks to Chris Nijs at JB Publishing for inviting me to take part and to Head of Zeus for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I was immediately drawn to the premise of the book as soon as I read the blurb. I am a sucker for a legal thriller and the prospect of a lone woman up against a nefarious group of lawyers is definitely something I want to read. I was hearing echoes of one of my favourite books, The Firm by John Grisham, and there were definite parallels between that book and this one as I read it, so if that is a book that is up your street, I know you will enjoy Double Deceit.

The book starts off with tension between the main character, Jennifer, and her husband Oliver whilst they are on a family break when their young son gets lost. I thought the story was going one way when Oliver later turns up dead, but it soon took a different turn and we are lead down a labyrinthine path, as more and more details of Oliver’s life before his death are revealed to an unsuspecting Jennifer and her faith in what she knew about her husband is shaken to the core. She begins to doubt his death is as straight forward as the police believe, and she becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth, to the point where she is alienating all around her.

The book is gripping, with numerous red herrings and dead ends thrown in to keep the reader guessing right until the end. Just when you think you know where it is going, there is a huge twist thrown in and, I have to say, I kept changing my mind between different theories as to what had happened, right up until the final chapter, so it was very cleverly done in that respect. There were numerous different endings that the book could have had, some that maybe would have been even more interesting than how it finally turned out, but overall I was satisfied with the way the plot turned out.

The author has developed some very interesting characters in the book. I thought the way she explored the emotional fallout for Jennifer of her husband’s death and being left alone with a small child to bring up alone was fascinating and realistic. How quickly her friends abandoned her when they thought she was going a bit crazy over the way her husband dies was very upsetting and makes you wonder what your friends would do in that situation. It was an interesting exploration of the dynamics of relationships and the robustness of the human spirit, how much we should trust our gut about people and how well we know them.

If I had any tiny niggles, one was that some of Jennifer’s actions required a bit of a stretch of credulity to accept, but this is often the case in a book of this sort, it isn’t supposed to be real life. Also, some of the writing, particularly in the speech patterns, sounded quite formal and not one hundred per cent natural. However, I put this down to English being the author’s second language and I think it is quite forgivable in that context.

I really enjoyed Double Deceit and would definitely read more books by this author in the future, it kept me  clenched in its grip for a good few hours. Highly recommended.

Double Deceit is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do check out the blogs listed below for more reviews of the book:

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About the Author

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Julienne Brouwers worked as a pharmaceutical scientist and medical physicist before becoming a writer. She lives in the Netherlands, with her husband and three children, where she has published two successful thrillers, and lived in the UK and US for a total of four years. 

Connect with Julienne:

Facebook: Julienne Brouwers

Twitter: @JulienneAuthor

Instagram: @juliennebrouwers

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Book Review: The Guilty Die Twice by Don Hartshorn

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Two attorney brothers. Two bullet-riddled corpses. Two sides to the story.

Ten years ago, a capital murder case in the heart of Texas split the Lynch family in two. Now, estranged lawyer brothers Travis and Jake Lynch find themselves on opposing sides of the courtroom in a high-profile, grisly double murder case—with another accused criminal’s life on the line. Conscience-stricken Travis left his high-powered law firm to become a public defender, while bullish Jake rose to become District Attorney. The case pits brother against brother in a contest of wits, wills, and legal savvy that will shake the justice system to its core: both Lynches are convinced they’re in the right, but the truth turns out to be more complicated—and deadly—than either could have possibly imagined.

A drug deal double-cross turns lethal, leaving two corpses and one victim paralyzed for life. The victim never saw the gunman, but he knows one name: Sam Park. Travis defended Sam’s brother years before, and his heart won’t let him turn down the case, even knowing it’ll bring him face-to-face with Jake after ten years of cold silence. Jake, meanwhile, runs afoul of the Austin political machine and needs a high-profile conviction to win a tough upcoming election. And Sam, the star witness and prime suspect, won’t talk—not to Travis, and certainly not to the high-and-mighty DA—and time is running out.

Can these feuding brothers put aside a decade of enmity in the name of true justice? Or will the truth of what really happened that bloody night go to the grave with Sam Park?

Today I have my second guest reviewer of the week. This time Sandra Forder has reviewed The Guilty Die Twice by Don Hartshorn and I am grateful to her for providing this fabulous review. My thanks also go to Maria Inot at TCK Publishing for inviting the review and for providing the digital copy of the book for that purpose. The book has been reviewed honestly and impartially.

This book follows the story of Travis and Jack Lynch, brothers working on the same side of the law but with opposing views on the death penalty. It is about so much more than the senseless murder of the ‘Rich Kids’ by Mark, Sam, and Roger.  Told with flashbacks to a previous case, it’s a tale about the decimation of a family bond when brothers Travis and Jack take different sides in a murder trial. Then the Rich Kids murder case leads them back to each other. I loved reading the unfolding dynamic within the family.

The flashbacks which are spread throughout the book give a deeper insight into the divide between the brothers. They help you understand why they have progressed in their careers in the way they have. Coming from a well-known family of lawyers, Travis is like an outsider and is resistant to accepting any help, even though he is struggling with paying his own bills. Unbeknownst to him, more and more work starts coming his way which he doesn’t question as he is focused on helping the Parks with their son Sam’s case. He had previously represented the other brother. You can see his need to help those in need outweighing his need to pay the bills.

When I first started this book, I did wonder what year I was in, but the need to know soon waned as I delved further into the story. I really came to like and picture Travis as he worked to help those who couldn’t afford representation. The juxtaposition between his life and that of Jake was shown without overstating it.

It was great to see the way Jake acted in his role as DA. The way he had the measure of people without them realising he was onto them. This is shown with his interactions with those in his office but also at the club with his Dad.

The killing of the ‘Rich Kids’ was slightly confusing, it seemed like they were just shot with no real argument or causation. I understand the boys thought the ‘Rich Kids’ had $5000 to buy the drugs from Sam, but why did someone shoot? Later in the book Sam is in custody for the killings but was he actually the one who pulled the trigger?

The appearance, and reappearance, of Christine Morton is key to the story. She is a hard-nosed journalist, who not only helps Jack get information he needs, she is also passing important findings to Travis too.  When I was first reading her, she came across as hard, but she softens as the story progresses which I liked. It gave her a softness which she had been lacking but was realistic in its portrayal.

When the trial starts, Travis realises someone has been helping him with his case from behind the scenes.

This book is about finding justice in a sea of injustice. It also shows how bridges can be rebuilt after they are burnt.

There is a lot to like in this book, so much so it kept me reading to the end. There are few areas where I would have liked the author to take a little time to clarify things, but overall, I enjoyed reading it.

The Guilty Die Twice is out now as a paperback and ebook, and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Don Hartshorn is an author, freelance editor, volunteer mediator, and globetrotter. He draws inspiration for his stories both from man’s highest aspirations and from his petty, grimy motivations. After traveling the world for the US government and doing time as a prisoner of Corporate America’s well-oiled machine, this Texas native son has come home to roost in San Antonio. And there he’ll stay—until the next big adventure comes calling.

Don is the author of the legal thriller The Guilty Die Twice published by TCK Publishing.

Connect with Don:

Website: https://donhartshorn.com/

Twitter: @donhartshorn

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Book Review: Fake Law: The Truth About Justice in an Age of Lies by The Secret Barrister

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Could the courts really order the death of your innocent baby? Was there an illegal immigrant who couldn’t be deported because he had a pet cat? Are unelected judges truly enemies of the people?

Most of us think the law is only relevant to criminals, if we even think of it at all. But the law touches every area of our lives: from intimate family matters to the biggest issues in our society.

Our unfamiliarity is dangerous because it makes us vulnerable to media spin, political lies and the kind of misinformation that frequently comes from loud-mouthed amateurs and those with vested interests. This ‘fake law’ allows the powerful and the ignorant to corrupt justice without our knowledge – worse, we risk letting them make us complicit.

Thankfully, the Secret Barrister is back to reveal the stupidity, malice and incompetence behind many of the biggest legal stories of recent years. In Fake Law, the Secret Barrister debunks the lies and builds a defence against the abuse of our law, our rights and our democracy that is as entertaining as it is vital.

I vividly remember an evening in 2016 when I went out to dinner with a group of around eight of my closest friends. Earlier that day, the retrial of a footballer previously convicted of rape had resulted in an acquittal, and conversation inevitably touched on this current hot topic. To my dismay, there were lot of harsh words directed at the victim in the case, with assertions that she was clearly a ‘liar,’ that the law needed to do something about the problem of ‘fake claims’ of rape and the subsequent destruction of the lives of ‘obviously innocent’ men. I refer to dismay, because this is what I felt upon realising that my group of well-educated, largely liberal, tolerant, engaged and generous friends were so ill-informed as to what the acquittal of this footballer really meant with regards to the honesty of the woman involved and the appropriateness his behaviour. None of them had actually read any detail as to the facts of the case or the grounds on which he had been acquitted, they had simply accepted at face value the many sensational and inaccurate news reports on the case. It was eye-opening. I tried my best to explain why these assumptions were untrue, but was not entirely successful as a lone voice crying against a storm of popular misinformation.

I mention this story, because it is one of the cases referred to by The Secret Barrister in their new book, Fake Law, in which they try to counteract some of the inaccurate stories we are constantly being fed by various sections of society, including the media, vested interest groups and, sadly, to an increasing degree, our own government, why this misinformation is so damaging to the very fabric of our society and why each of us on a personal level should care. Reading this book, for me, is like reliving most of the Twitter arguments I have had over the past five or so years, much more clearly articulated. In fact, I first stumbled across the Secret Barrister on Twitter in 2018 on a thread regarding the hot topic of that particular moment, the arrest of pensioner Richard Osborn-Brooks for the ‘crime of defending his own home,’ a story that is discussed in the opening chapter of this book, and I have been an ardent fan ever since.

The book sets out many of the most contentious legal firestorms of the past few decades, recaps on what the general public have been lead to believe about these issues by certain factions, explains very clearly why much of the information we have been fed is misleading at best and downright dishonest in some cases, and then asks why it may be the interests of certain parties for us not to be given the whole truth about these matters, and what negative consequences for each of us arise when we nod along with this misinformation. For anyone taking the time and trouble to read the book and really think about what the author is saying, it is a deeply disturbing read.

Coming as I do from a background in law myself, I am familiar with the majority of the legal issues and concepts that The Secret Barrister puts forward in the book, hence why many of the cases they highlight here are ones that have had me personally raging on Twitter. However, the writing is set out clearly with the lay reader, not the legally educated, in mind and all of the principles are set out in a basic fashion using simple language and illustrated with easy to digest examples and comparators. Anyone can pick up this book and understand the points being made. In addition, The Secret Barrister has a delicious turn of phrase, and an absolutely wicked tongue which is truly pleasurable to read. I know if we met we would get along famously. I raise as particularly delightful examples their glorious descriptions of potential pleasures lost due injurious cases of negligence on page 83, their sly references to ‘neo-Dickensian sportswear retailers’ and their accurately unflattering assessment of the mental capabilities of a former Justice Secretary at the bottom of page 93. This is no dry, dusty tome to be waded through as if studying a textbook, this is an entertaining, informative and, ultimately, important text that is accessible to everyone who has an interest in understanding more about their legal rights and why it is important that we do not allow them to be undermined by factions with any agenda other than the best interests of us as individuals, and society at large, at their heart.

Because this stuff matters to all of us, whether we realise it or not. The law and the legal justice system underpins the very fabric of our society, ensures the smooth running of our lives and even our safety and liberty. You may think, as we are encouraged to do, that, if you are a law-abiding citizen, being kind to your fellow man and minding your own business, the law has little to offer you. You would be wrong. The law, and your ability to turn to it for redress when you are wronged, is what is preventing you from being irreversibly mangled by an intoxicated surgeon in a botched operation and then uncompensated; from a manufacturer selling you a faulty dishwasher without liability when it subsequently burns down your house ; from an ex-partner maliciously being able to keep you from seeing your children because you doinked the babysitter; from your boss capriciously firing you because he doesn’t like the fact you wear brown shoes with a black suit to work; from you being wrongfully identified as an armed robber by the short-sighted bank teller who came to work without her contact lenses that day and banged up for a ten stretch; or from a government deciding that the freedom of religion is no longer a human right exercisable by the denizens of our country and forcing you into trying to find an affordable house with a priest-hole in which to hide the unfortunate administrator of your future clandestine religious services. Extreme examples? Maybe but I think they illustrate the main point being made through the book. The law is for everyone, and we all need to protect its integrity and our access to it. My favourite quote from the book, which neatly sums this up with a comparison to a ‘giant game of Jenga,’ falls at the end of Chapter 8. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

I made pages and pages of notes on this book in preparation for writing this review, and there are so many more things I could say, but I run the risk of getting on my personal hobby horse, rather than writing a book review, and The Secret Barrister rides this hobby horse with much more elan than I ever could, so you should just read the book for yourself. I love the law, I have since I was 13 and first became entranced by the idea of pursuing it as a profession. Even though I no longer practice, it still fascinates me intellectually, and I am horrified at the way it is being eroded, and with the presumed consent of large swathes of the population. It genuinely scares me, if I’m being honest. The fact that this consent is being gained by the dissemination of lies and distortions of fact is abhorrent. This is why you need to read this book. Understand what you are being fed and why, so you can make informed decisions about what to believe and what to support. Don’t allow yourselves to be conned. Knowledge is power.

I have read this book twice this year, it is so good and, since this book was published in September, there have been so many more examples of misinformation arousing misdirected public outrage on legal matters. The government have passed a statute which breaches international law, whilst telling us they haven’t. Only this week there were false claims that the approval of the first vaccine against COVID by the UK regulator was a Brexit benefit. These falsehoods are being perpetuated by Government ministers, people we elected to act in our best interests, including the Attorney-General and the Lord Chancellor, who are supposed to protect the integrity of the law. As I recently completed the second read through, I had visions of the poor Secret Barrister sitting despairingly in their writing garret, self-medicating with gin as they frantically scribble daily addendums to this book, emailing increasingly harried messages to their beleaguered publisher, trying to keep up to date with the latest chipping away of the legal framework on which we all depend. Their desk is covered with dozens of sodden post-its, used to mop up their tears of frustration as they fight the rising tide of misinformation that threatens to engulf us. They have my deepest sympathies.

The fact this happens is outrageous. Be outraged. Refuse to accept it. But how can we reject these actions when many of us don’t even know we are being lied to? The media are complicit in the deceit. We deserve better and we should demand it. We need a basic legal education for all, and a media that reports on these things honestly. We currently have neither. What we do have are individuals such as The Secret Barrister, and a wealth of other lawyers and legal commentators who are trying to shine a light on these fabrications and why the law matters to all of us and deserves protection.

Seek them out, arm yourselves with information and decide for yourselves what it important. Start here, with this book, it’s a great read, and an important one. It’s my book of the year for 2020. Sadly, I fear the people who most need to read it are the very ones who won’t.

Fake Law: The Truth About justice in an Age of Lies is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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The Secret Barrister is a junior barrister specialising in criminal law.

The law can often feel to the public like an alien and impenetrable world, linked to everyday life only by selective news reportage and artistically-licensed tv dramatisation. The Secret Barrister aims to bridge that gap by providing a candid, and hopefully accessible, explanation of our criminal justice system, of how it works, and of how, all too often, it doesn’t.

The Secret Barrister has written for the The Times, The Guardian, New Statesman, iNews, Esquire, Counsel Magazine and Solicitors Journal, and has appeared in The Sun, The Mirror and Huffington Post.

In 2016 and 2017, the Secret Barrister was named Independent Blogger of the Year at the Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards. In 2018, they were named Legal Personality of The Year at the Law Society Awards.

The Secret Barrister is a patron of FRU (Free Representation Unit) and the Aberdeen Law Project.

Their debut book, Stories of The Law and How It’s Broken, was a Sunday Times bestseller for 24 consecutive weeks, and was named the Non-Fiction Book of the Year 2018 at the Books Are My Bag Awards.

Connect with The Secret Barrister:

Website: https://thesecretbarrister.com/

Facebook: The Secret Barrister

Twitter: @BarristerSecret

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Blog Tour: Crime and Justice by Martin Bodenham #BookReview

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What if we could no longer trust DNA profiling, the silver bullet of our criminal justice system? For years, we’ve relied on it to solve decades-old crimes, convict the guilty, and liberate the innocent from death row. But what happens to that trust when a crime lab scientist is leaned on to manipulate the evidence or, worse still, lose it altogether?

Ruthless Seattle mayor, Patti Rainsford, announces her candidacy for state governor. She’ll do anything to succeed. When her son is arrested for the rape and assault of a seventeen-year-old girl, Rainsford’s political career is in jeopardy.

Detective Linda Farrell is assigned to investigate. After twelve years working in SPD’s sexual assault unit, her career is drifting, not helped by the single-minded detective’s contempt for police protocol and the pressure of her failing marriage. The high-profile rape case is a rare chance to shine and maybe even get her life back on track. Nothing will stop her seeking justice for the young victim.

With a mountain of personal debt and his wife’s business on a knife-edge, Clark Stanton is facing financial meltdown. Then a stranger offers him a lifeline in return for a favor. As the manager of Seattle’s crime lab, all Clark has to do is make the rape kit evidence against the mayor’s son go away.

I am delighted to be one of the blogs kicking off the tour today for Crime and Justice by Martin Bodenham. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

The action in this book kicks off from the very first page when Clark Stanton, manager of the Seattle crime lab, is approached by someone with unwelcome demands, and the reader is forced to ask themselves from the beginning, what would you do in this situation. Clark is put in a seemingly impossible position, with no good choices open to him.

I have to say, to begin with, I wasn’t one hundred per cent convinced by the path that Clark decides to take. I could see what the author was trying to do to convince the reader that what he did was reasonable under the circumstances, but I’m not sure he was totally successful in my case. However, if you can put this aside and try and suspend your disbelief as I did, what follows is a rollercoaster ride of action as Clark tries to dig himself out of the hole he has got himself into, while other people fight for justice, or to avoid being brought to justice, depending on their perspectives.

There are a lot of morally dubious characters in this book, in fact they outweigh the ones who are obviously likeable, which makes for an interesting dynamic in the novel. The most sympathetic characters in this novel are the minor ones, the ones who actually have very little voice and are the ones who end up suffering the most as a result of the protagonist’s actions. They were the ones, by the end, who had my thoughts, and I was left feeling saddened for them and the justice they never received.

And this is the main theme of the book. What is justice, and what is it reasonable to do in order to seek it? What lengths can a moral person go to in order to seek justice, and is doing morally dubious, or even downright illegal, things justified if it sees wrong-doers punished in the end? Do the ends justify the means? Would it be better for criminals to go free to spare innocent people pain and suffering, or is the sacrifice of innocents an acceptable side effect in the pursuit of justice? These are dilemmas that have taxed humans for centuries, and I’m not sure everyone will come up with the same answer after reading this book, but it gives the reader food for thought.

The other idea explored here, how far we should trust the conviction of people based purely on DNA evidence when it can easily be manipulated by unscrupulous humans, is also interesting, and I don’t think there is a good answer. It will make you ponder, if you are like me, how we do insure that the criminal justice system is as infallible as it can be, when it has to rely so heavily on the actions of humans who can make mistakes, or who are blinded by bias, prejudice, or open to outside manipulation. If you think about it for too long, it could give you sleepless nights, but I’m not sure that anyone has come up with a better alternative yet.

This book is a gripping thriller, with plenty of moral dilemmas for the reader to chew on, and lots of action to keep the plot rolling along. If the author has to perform some contortions in justifying the motivations of his main character to set up the premise for the book, most readers will probably find this a minor price to pay for a cracking read.

Crime and Justice is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour for other reviews and other great content:

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About the Author

Martin Bodenham - Author

Martin Bodenham is the author of the crime thrillers The Geneva Connection, Once a Killer, and Shakedown. Crime And Justice is his latest novel.

After a thirty-year career in private equity and corporate finance in London, Martin moved to the west coast of Canada, where he writes full-time. He held corporate finance partner positions at both KPMG and Ernst & Young as well as senior roles at several private equity firms before founding his own private equity company in 2001. Much of the tension in his thrillers is based on the greed and fear he witnessed first-hand while working in international finance.

Connect with Martin:

Website: https://www.martinbodenham.com/

Twitter: @MartinBodenham

Instagram: @martinbodenham

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Blog Tour: The Night Lawyer by Alex Churchill #BookReview

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Sophie Angel is the night lawyer. Once a week, she’s the one who decides what the papers can and can’t say.

During the day, she’s a barrister. She struggles for justice in a system that’s close to collapse, where she confronts the most dangerous aspects of humanity. 

Her life changes when a wealthy Russian offers her the biggest case of her career, a rape trial with a seemingly innocent client.

But is someone manipulating Sophie from the shadows? With her marriage under strain and haunted by nightmares from the past, Sophie must find the answer to these questions before it’s too late.

This is a story about betrayal, trust, guilt and innocence, played out from the courtrooms of London to the darkest corners of Soviet era Moscow.

Delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Night Lawyer by Alex Churchill today. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my paperback copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I absolutely love books set in a legal setting, largely for reasons of nostalgia, and this was one of the better examples of the genre that I have read recently. I am hoping this is the first book in an exciting new series, because Sophie Angel is a character I could really become invested in.

There is so much to love about this book. First and foremost, it gives a very fascinating and truthful look into the workings of the English legal system and the trials and tribulations that it is currently facing, and for me this is the most interesting part of the book. The criminal justice system is woefully under-funded, but this seems to be something that very few people care about, until they become embroiled in it themselves. You often see articles in the press lamenting ‘fat cat lawyers’ and criminals ‘abusing the legal aid system,’ but this is so far from the truth and it is something we should all be very worried about. One of the cornerstones of a liberal and truly free society is an impartial and accessible justice system that provides fair trial for everyone, regardless of your financial means. If people cannot access good legal representation, then they cannot navigate the system with equality to people of means, and this is grossly unfair and dangerous. There are so many things that are currently being suggested as changes to the legal system, that threaten its impartiality, that it makes me very frightened, and you all should be too. This book goes some way to demonstrating some of the challenges faced, particularly by the Criminal Bar, and is a fascinating read that anyone interested in this subject matter will enjoy.

If that sounds a little dry, I apologise, because that is far from the case. All of this is wrapped up in a really exciting thriller. There are several plot lines to follow in the book that all add to the tension – Sophie’s family and past in Russia which is shrouded in mystery, Sophie’s relationship with her husband, another powerful barrister, her work on the newspaper at The Night Lawyer, the major trial she is defending, and the terrifying behaviour of a previous client. All of these things keep the plot moving along at a terrific lick, and provide plenty of moments of tension and high drama to keep the reader engrossed throughout.

Sophie is a really appealing and attractive character who carries the book beautifully. I totally believed in her and her behaviour throughout. Her reactions seemed entirely authentic and, as a reader, I was sympathetic to her in each of the situations in which she finds herself. I feel like there is much more to discover about her, her dual English and Russian heritage provides tantalising scenarios to be explored going forward. I really enjoyed the portion of this book exploring her Russian background and look forward to more of this. Her work of a barrister provides endless fodder for drama, and her work on the newspaper is a unique and interesting angle. I have high hopes of the next instalment from Sophie Angel.

If you are interested in the seemingly archaic and unusual world of the English legal system, and the Bar in particular will really enjoy this author’s writing. She explores it very well, without making the material seem dry and boring, and I thought the book was marvellous. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a legal thriller.

The Night Lawyer is out now in paperback and digital formats, and you can buy a copy here.

Please do be sure to follow the rest of the tour for alternative reviews and other content:

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About the Author

Alex Churchill was a barrister, specialising in serious crime for over three decades, and a writer. 

Connect with Alex:

Twitter: @_AlexChurchill

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Blog Tour: The Pupil by Ros Carne #BookReview

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She wants to learn everything – about you.

Mel has practised law for twenty years. She is well-regarded by her peers. Her clients are happy. But behind the scenes her life is disordered. Her son grows increasingly distant from her. The married man she is sleeping with fails to give her what she needs.

When a trainee lawyer is allocated to Mel it is poor timing. The last thing she wants is a pupil watching her every move. And Natasha does watch. She sees each detail – and every mistake. Mel cannot shake the feeling that Natasha isn’t just learning the job. She is learning Mel.

Natasha is good at getting what she wants, and now Mel has the power to give her all she desires. But when Mel chooses not to, Natasha knows just what Mel’s vulnerabilities are – and how to turn them against her. Mel’s secrets could ruin her. But who will be believed?

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Pupil by Ros Carne. My thanks to Emma Welton at damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part, and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I love any book set in the legal world, so I was really looking forward to this and it did not disappoint. There was a great mix of detail about legal matters, and the personal stories of the two protagonists, Mel and Natasha, to give me everything I was looking for.

The story is told in the alternating voices of the two women, although slightly more weight is given to Mel’s voice, and it seems like we are supposed to sympathise more with her predicament than Natasha’s, but not everything is that straight forward, which makes for a gripping story. Although Natasha seems to be manipulative and a schemer, Mel is not a saint herself, as we soon find out.

Mel has a messy life, which I am sure many of us can relate to, trying to juggle a demanding job with relationships and motherhood, especially of a son in those difficult, mid-teen years where they are the cusp of adulthood but not quite there yet. On top of this, she is given charge of a pupil to teach, an added strain she doesn’t want or need, particularly when there is a personality clash.

I could feel the strain taking its toll on Mel throughout the book, and the author also develops Natasha as a menacing and noxious presence in Mel’s life. At the same time, Natasha has her own history and problems that have shaped her behaviour so, despite everything, I did manage to retain a small shred of sympathy for her. This clever balancing of light and shade in each character means that the readers feelings swing from side to side along with the plot and, like a jury, the verdict is out until the end of the book.

I enjoyed the final ‘showdown’ very much and, for me, the ending worked really well, although I think there may be some who would wish that it had ended differently and more dramatically. However, this seemed to be a more honest and likely ending than one that was engineered just for effect. All in all, I was very satisfied with this read and the way it all came out. Interesting premise and characters and enough tension and exciting events to keep the reader interested throughout. Highly recommended.

The Pupil is out now as an ebook and will be published in paperback on 13 August, and you can get your copy here.

Make sure to check out the rest of the fantastic blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Ros Carne was born in London, and following university she worked in magazine and newspaper journalism including as a theatre critic on the Guardian. She later retrained as a barrister, practising for 13 years before moving to a university teaching job. She has two adult sons and enjoys playing the violin. Ros now lives in Somerset where she writes full time.

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Tempted By … Live and Deadly: The Holdout by Graham Moore

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One juror changed the verdict. What if she was wrong?

‘Ten years ago we made a decision together…’

Fifteen-year-old Jessica Silver, heiress to a billion-dollar fortune, vanishes on her way home from school. Her teacher, Bobby Nock, is the prime suspect. It’s an open and shut case for the prosecution, and a quick conviction seems all but guaranteed.

Until Maya Seale, a young woman on the jury, persuades the rest of the jurors to vote not guilty: a controversial decision that will change all of their lives forever.

Ten years later, one of the jurors is found dead, and Maya is the prime suspect.

The real killer could be any of the other ten jurors. Is Maya being forced to pay the price for her decision all those years ago?

Today’s Tempted By… was a no-brainer for me, to be honest. As an ex-lawyer, any books set in a legal environment are automatically appealing but it was the reference in this review by Mary Picken on her blog, Live and Deadly, to one of my favourite films that sealed the deal.

“A sort of reverse 12 Angry Men.” It wasn’t really going to take anything more than that to persuade me that The Holdout was a book I needed to read. 12 Angry Men is one of my favourite films and if you haven’t seen it, you need to go and watch it immediately. Henry Fonda gives one of the most powerful performances I’ve ever seen as the single juror trying to turn the minds of the other eleven jurors, who are convinced of the defendant’s guilt. It was nominated for three Oscars, so I’m not alone in thinking it is brilliant. How, therefore, could I resist a book that is being touted as  12 Angry Men on adrenaline.

Besides, Mary says that this is a belter of a legal thriller and, if there is any blog that I trust to know her thriller onions, it’s this one. Live and Deadly focuses on crime and thriller books, and she reads an awful lot of them, so she knows what she is talking about when it comes to judging a thriller. When she tells me a book is nicely paced with some good twists and turns, I am going to believe her and it is definitely one I am going to pick up. I am really looking forward to reading this when it gets to the top of my TBR pile.

If you are a lover of crime and thriller novels, Mary’s blog is one that you should be following. She is a prolific poster, reviewing all of the top new releases plus loads of great books from smaller, indie publishers that you may not otherwise come across, so this is the place to discover those hidden gems in crime fiction. She has a real knack for concise but precise reviews, so if you prefer a succinct reviewing style that really boils down the salient information, rather than my long, often inane, ramblings, this is the blog for you. Plus, she is one of the loveliest, kindest and most supportive bloggers on the scene and I love her to bits. You can find Mary’s blog here.

If this post and Mary’s review has made you eager to pick up a copy of The Holdout (and why wouldn’t it have?), it is available in hardback, audio and ebook formats and you can buy a copy here.

 

Rumpole of the Bailey by John Mortimer Narrated by Robert Hardy #BookReview #audiobook @audibleuk @TheFictionCafe #FictionCafeBookClub #FictionCafeReadingChallenge2020 #challenges #freereading #RumpoleOfTheBailey

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In these witty and comic stories, Horace Rumpole takes on a variety of clients and activities. He, of course, brings each case to a successful end, all the while quoting poetry and drinking claret.

This is the second book I have chosen for the 2020 Reading Challenge for my online book club, The Fiction Cafe Book Club. The second category for the challenge is ‘A book by an author who shares your initials.’ Hence, Julie Morris = John Mortimer.

It was Crown Court that started it. A lot of you won’t remember it, but those of a certain age may recall this TV show which ran during my childhood, to which I was completely addicted. In fact, I didn’t even realise that it was drama to begin with, I thought they were real criminal trials being shown on TV, and this was made me want to become a lawyer.

To begin with, I wanted to be a barrister, and this ambition led me in turn to the novels of a real-life barrister, John Mortimer, and his most famous character, Horace Rumpole.

I read all of the Rumpole books multiple times when I was younger, rabid as I was for tales of legal life. Of course, these books are not really representative of life as a barrister, and I ended up taking an entirely different route in my legal career, away from the Bar and criminal law to the non-contentious role as a corporate solicitor. I continue to love a legal-based book though, and discovered Caro Fraser’s Caper Court series, John Grisham and, more recently, the novels of Gillian McAllister and Peter Murphy. But Rumpole will always have a soft spot in my heart.

I haven’t revisited the books in a long time, although I still have my original copies, and they do feel somewhat dated now. The law and society have changed so much in the interim, and the writing may come across as rather un-PC when viewed through a modern lens. They are certainly books of their time, and Rumpole is no modern man by today’s standards. He could not get away with referring to his wife as ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’ these days, thankfully.

However, if you read them of products of the time in which they were written, you can still see the appeal they had to a young, wannabe barrister. The writing is clever and fluid, Rumpole is a loveable rogue and defender of the underdog, wily but charming, a distinctive personality of a type which I doubt exists at the Bar any more. The books portray an era of legal practice long gone which, in some respects is to be mourned although in others society has improved. And the books are very funny (maybe only in some respects to lawyers. There were blank looks on my daughters’ faces as I laughed like a drain at the joke ‘Agent provocateur, you don’t get many of those in conveyancing.’) I still found much to enjoy in the book when I listened to it within its original frame of reference.

I really enjoyed my amble down youthful memory lane with this book. I won’t consign my old Rumpole books to the recycling bin just yet. I’m not sure I’ll be persuading my daughters to pick them up any time soon though.

Rumpole of the Bailey is available here.

About the Author

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Sir John Mortimer was a playwright, novelist and former practising barrister. During the war he worked with the Crown Film Unit and published a number of novels, before turning to theatre. He wrote many film scripts, and plays both for radio and television, including A Voyage Round My Father, the Rumpole plays, which won him the British Academy Writer of the Year Award, and the adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.

Mortimer wrote four volumes of autobiography, including Clinging to the Wreckage and Where There’s a Will (2003). His novels include the Leslie Titmuss trilogy, about the rise of an ambitious Tory MP: Paradise Postponed, Titmuss Regained and The Sound of Trumpets, and the acclaimed comic novel, Quite Honestly (2005). He also published numerous books featuring his best-loved creation Horace Rumpole, including Rumpole and the Primrose Path (2002) and Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders (2004). All these books are available in Penguin.

Sir John Mortimer received a knighthood for his services to the arts. His authorized biography, A Voyage Around John Mortimer, written by Valerie Grove, is also published by Penguin (2007).

Sir John Mortimer passed away on January 16, 2009.