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

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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.

Take It Back by Kia Abdullah #BookReview (@KiaAbdullah) @HarperCollinsUK @NetGalley #PublicationDay #TakeItBack #NetGalley

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The Victim: A sixteen-year-old girl with facial deformities, neglected by an alcoholic mother. Who accuses the boys of something unthinkable.

The Defendants: Four handsome teenage boys from hardworking immigrant families. All with corroborating stories.

Whose side would you take?

Zara Kaleel, one of London’s brightest young legal minds, shattered the expectations placed on her by her family and forged a glittering career at the Bar. All before hanging up her barrister’s wig to help the victims who needed her most. Victims like Jodie Wolfe.

Jodie’s own best friend doesn’t even believe her claims that their classmates carried out such a crime. But Zara does. And Zara is determined to fight for her.

Jodie and Zara become the centre of the most explosive criminal trial of the year, in which ugly divisions within British society are exposed. As everything around Zara begins to unravel she becomes even more determined to get Jodie the justice she’s looking for. But at what price?

Another publication day review to share with you, this time for Take It Back by Kia Abdullah. Happy publication day, Kia, and my thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This was a fascinating legal thriller that deals with a multitude of complex and contentious issues that are very relevant in current society and, at the same time, providing a page-turning ‘who did what’ story. There are so many layers to this book that it is one I will definitely go back to and read again with a fresh set of eyes to make sure I have rung every nuance from it, but I will do the best I can to write my review based on my first read of it.

The story involves an allegation of rape by a girl with facial deformities against a group of boys from an ethnic minority background and, from the off, it causes discomfort in the reader as our sympathies are pitted against one another as we try and work out which characters are the real victims in the story. This is the main theme of the book, how do you deal with individuals from two separate, disadvantaged groups pointing the finger at one another without allowing personal or societal prejudices affect your judgement? The narrative casts a sharp and unflattering light on the way our society currently operates and how we view and react to people very different to ourselves. The book made me ask some very uncomfortable questions about my own privilege and possible prejudices and preconceptions and, by the end, I was left with more questions than answers and a good many issues to probe further.

The main character in the book is Zara, a modern woman with a high-flying career who has taken the drastic step of leaving behind a lucrative career at the Bar to help victims of sexual violence. Zara comes from a Muslim family and has a good many demons of her own to address, a number of which she is forced to confront as her current case spirals out of control and spills over into her personal life. The use of Zara as the main focus of the book is a clever vehicle for forcing the reader to see the kinds of problems minorities have to face in our society and what conflicts they are presented with. Those of us who do not fall into these categories can find it almost impossible to imagine what challenges are presented daily to minorities and books like this one which don’t shy away from presenting these challenges to us in a digestible format can offer the opportunity to think about these things from a  different angle. The author does a really great job of portraying Zara as someone real and flawed and sympathetic so we can try, for a brief time, to slip into her shoes.

The protagonists on both sides of the criminal investigation are portrayed as complicated  characters with motivations, personalities, desires and faults that are revealed gradually throughout the novel. so that the readers perception of who might be telling the truth and who might be lying can change from page to page as we learn more about them, just as Zara’s does. I had no clear idea of the truth until the very last page and, as a result, the book held my attention easily from beginning to end. It wasn’t an easy read, though. These are some deeply troubling issues that are being addressed in the story and parts of it made me extremely uncomfortable in a way that had me asking questions of myself throughout. For a thriller of this type, this is an unusual and accomplished achievement and puts this book a cut above some of the run of the mill titles that have appeared in this genre. To dismiss it as just another of its type would be to do the book a grave disservice.

The settings and descriptions of the book present a grim background that perfectly suits the plot and the writing really brought everything to life – location, characters, mood and story. This is a skilfully written book that offers a big punch and a lot of food for thought, as well as a gripping read. It is a book that will stay with me for a while and I highly recommend it.

Take It Back is out today and you can get a copy here.

About the Author

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Kia Abdullah is an author and travel writer from London. She has contributed to The New York Times, The Guardian, BBC and Lonely Planet, and is the founding editor of outdoor travel blog Atlas & Boots, read by 250,000 people a month.

Connect with Kia:

Website: https://kiaabdullah.com

Facebook: Kia Abdullah

Twitter: @KiaAbdullah

Instagram: @kiaabdullah

One Law For The Rest Of Us by Peter Murphy #BookReview #BlogTour @noexitpress @annecater #RandomThingsTours #OneLawForTheRestOfUs

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When Audrey Marshall sends her daughter Emily to the religious boarding school where she herself was educated a generation before, memories return – memories of a culture of child sexual abuse presided over by a highly-regarded priest. Audrey turns to barrister Ben Schroeder in search of justice for Emily and herself. But there are powerful men involved, men determined to protect themselves at all costs. Will they succeed? Is there indeed one law for the rich and powerful, and one law for…?

I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour today for One Law For The Rest Of Us, the latest Ben Schroeder legal thriller by Peter Murphy. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I absolutely love legal thrillers and I am always on the look out for new authors so, when I found out that this was the sixth book in the series following criminal law barrister Ben Schroeder, I was surprised that I had not come across Peter Murphy’s work before. However, although this is the sixth book featuring this character, it works completely as a stand alone and I did not feel that I was missing anything from the plot by not having read the previous five books.

The novel follows the case of Audrey Marshall upon, who finding out her daughter has been abused at the boarding school she herself attended a generation before, she is flooded with memories of her own experiences at the school thirty years before and sets out to seek justice for both of them. However, she is thwarted at every turn as it becomes apparent that powerful people have very good reasons to stop her story ever seeing the light of day.

This is a UK-set legal thriller and deals with the ins and outs of trying to prosecute a case through the UK courts. Fans of John Grisham who are looking for his style of legal thriller where lawyers are forever breaking the law and getting involved in car chases and gun battles won’t find that here. The UK legal system is far more reserved and refined and British barristers a much more genteel and old-fashioned breed who wouldn’t consider doing anything so vulgar that would set their powdered wigs askew. That is not to say, however, that the book lacks thrills and suspense because it does not. The action and tensions is more cerebral in nature, though, as it takes the form of pitfalls and frustrations by trying to pursue justice through the courts.

Frustration is, indeed, the main driver of this book. By the end, I was almost screaming, my nerves twanging with tensions as Audrey and her daughter are thwarted at every turn by people high up in the executive who have vested interests in stopping their case succeeding. The fact that this is all too likely and plausible, makes it even more maddening, and you will be glued to the page, willing her lawyers to find a way through the maze of obstacles erected against them to get justice for the family. If you like a properly argued legal thriller, you will love this book but your nerves will be tested.

The plot, although clearly fiction, does have echoes of recent scandals in this country and may be triggering for some readers. It does give a good insight into the workings of the English justice system, and how it is not a perfect system for delivering justice. The author has a legal background, so it able to make the writing feel very authentic, although there is obviously poetic licence taken for the sake of the plot.

The book is populated by an intriguing mix of characters, it is very well written and easy to read and is not too filled with jargon, so will be appealing to non-lawyers. I think it is an excellent addition to the genre and I will definitely be going back to check out the other titles in the series by this author. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys legal dramas.

One Law For The Rest Of Us will be published on 13 December and you can pre-order a copy here.

To read more reviews of this book, please follow the blog tour as detailed on the poster:

One Law For the Rest of us Blog Tour Poster

About the Author

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Peter Murphy graduated from Cambridge University and spent a career in the law, as an advocate, teacher, and judge. He has worked both in England and the United States, and served for several years as counsel at the Yugoslavian War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. He has written seven novels: two political thrillers about the US presidency, Removal and Test of Resolve; five historical/ legal thrillers featuring Ben Schroeder, A Higher Duty, A Matter For The Jury, And Is There Honey Still For Tea?, The Heirs of Owain Glyndwr and Calling Down the Storm. He is also the author of Walden of Bermondsey and Judge Walden: Back in Session and Judge Walden: Call The Next Case, which is due to be published in 2019.

Peter Murphy will be appearing on BBC Radio Bristol, BBC Radio Cambridge, BBC Radio West Midlands, BBC Radio Newcastle and BBC radio Manchester this summer as part of promotion for his Walden of Bermondsey series.

Connect with Peter:

Website: http://www.petermurphyauthor.co.uk

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The Rooster Bar by John Grisham #BookReview (@JohnGrisham) @HodderBooks #TheRoosterBar #Thriller #Legal

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“Law students Mark, Todd and Zola wanted to change the world – to make it a better place. But these days these three disillusioned friends spend a lot of time hanging out in The Rooster Bar, the place where Todd serves drinks. As third-year students, they realise they have been duped. They all borrowed heavily to attend a law school so mediocre that its graduates rarely pass the bar exam, let alone get good jobs. And when they learn that their school is one of a chain owned by a shady New York hedge-fund operator who also happens to own a bank specialising in student loans, the three realise they have been caught up in The Great Law School Scam.

So they begin plotting a way out. Maybe there’s a way to escape their crushing debt, expose the bank and the scam, and make a few bucks in the process. But to do so, they have to leave law school, pretend they are qualified and go into battle with a billionaire and the FBI . . .”

Ah, Autumn. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Back to school, the weather starts to nip, boots and coats are dug out of the closet, the leaves change colour and…it is time for a new John Grisham release. I always equate this time of year with the time to get a new one of his book. I now always have them on pre-order so I get them the day they come out, because I absolutely love his books. Always an edge-of-your-seat, irresistible combination of thriller and legal puzzle, his book are guaranteed to keep me glued to the pages from start to finish. I normally devour them as soon as they are out.

So imagine my surprise when, whilst waiting for his new book The Reckoning to be published, I realised that I hadn’t read last year’s release, The Rooster Bar. How did that happen? I can’t imagine except that my memory is like a sieve these days (I blame my age and hormones. In fact, it is even possible that I have read it and forgotten, things have got that bad.) Anyway, happy days – I now had another unread John Grisham to enjoy on my recent holiday.

I am always fascinated as to where authors get their ideas for novels from and there is an interesting note at the back of this book where Grisham reveals that the idea for this novel came from an article he read about the level of debt students in the US were taking on in order to put themselves through law school. Quite how he goes from what sounds like quite a dull article, particularly to non-lawyers, to a nail-biting thriller is the nature of his genius, because somehow he manages to spin it in to one of his classic plots that kept me up late desperate to get to the end.

The plot of this book is quite outrageous and I think you need to suspend your disbelief to buy in to it, but that is true of most thrillers, which are by their nature outlandish and pushing the boundaries of what is probable. These books are pure escapism, sometimes keeping only a slight grasp on reality and I am sure the court system in the USA would be outraged to think this could possibly happen (although I am now waiting for someone to tell me that it has been done.) Anyway, likelihood aside, the plot is original and gripping and an interesting spin on the ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ roles as the protagonists are actually breaking the law but we still end up rooting for them, despite the fact that they are jeopardising the futures of their clients, because they themselves are victims in some respects. Should they get away scot-free? Is what happens to them justice? I don’t want to give anything away by revealing my thoughts but I think you will find more to ponder in these books than people often give Grisham credit for.

When I have revealed to people in the past what a massive fan I am of John Grisham’s books, I have met with some literary snobbery, most particularly from people who have never read any of his books. Well, firstly, I would query whether you can form a valid opinion of an author without reading a word they have written. And, secondly, you don’t sell as many books as John Grisham has without being able to write. He is the master of creating a taut, exciting and interesting thriller and this one is no exception. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as I always do, and can’t wait to read his new book.

The Rooster Bar is available now and you can get a copy here.

About the Author

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Long before his name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, he was working 60-70 hours a week at a small Southaven, Mississippi, law practice, squeezing in time before going to the office and during courtroom recesses to work on his hobby—writing his first novel.

Born on February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a construction worker and a homemaker, John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Realizing he didn’t have the right stuff for a pro career, he shifted gears and majored in accounting at Mississippi State University. After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade in Southaven, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. In 1983, he was elected to the state House of Representatives and served until 1990.

One day at the DeSoto County courthouse, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl’s father had murdered her assailants. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987. Initially rejected by many publishers, it was eventually bought by Wynwood Press, who gave it a modest 5,000 copy printing and published it in June 1988.

That might have put an end to Grisham’s hobby. However, he had already begun his next book, and it would quickly turn that hobby into a new full-time career—and spark one of publishing’s greatest success stories. The day after Grisham completed A Time to Kill, he began work on another novel, the story of a hotshot young attorney lured to an apparently perfect law firm that was not what it appeared. When he sold the film rights to The Firm to Paramount Pictures for $600,000, Grisham suddenly became a hot property among publishers, and book rights were bought by Doubleday. Spending 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, The Firm became the bestselling novel of 1991.

The successes of The Pelican Brief, which hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Client, which debuted at number one, confirmed Grisham’s reputation as the master of the legal thriller. Grisham’s success even renewed interest in A Time to Kill, which was republished in hardcover by Doubleday and then in paperback by Dell. This time around, it was a bestseller.

Since first publishing A Time to Kill in 1988, Grisham has written one novel a year (his other books are The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, The Broker, Playing for Pizza, The Appeal, The Associate, The Confession, The Litigators, Calico Joe, The Racketeer, Sycamore Row, and Gray Mountain) and all of them have become international bestsellers. There are currently over 300 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 40 languages. Nine of his novels have been turned into films (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, A Painted House, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas), as was an original screenplay, The Gingerbread Man. The Innocent Man (October 2006) marked his first foray into non-fiction, and Ford County (November 2009) was his first short story collection.

Grisham took time off from writing for several months in 1996 to return, after a five-year hiatus, to the courtroom. He was honoring a commitment made before he had retired from the law to become a full-time writer: representing the family of a railroad brakeman killed when he was pinned between two cars. Preparing his case with the same passion and dedication as his books’ protagonists, Grisham successfully argued his clients’ case, earning them a jury award of $683,500—the biggest verdict of his career.

When he’s not writing, Grisham devotes time to charitable causes, including most recently his Rebuild The Coast Fund, which raised 8.8 million dollars for Gulf Coast relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He also keeps up with his greatest passion: baseball. The man who dreamed of being a professional baseball player now serves as the local Little League commissioner. The six ballfields he built on his property have played host to over 350 kids on 26 Little League teams.

Follow John on social media:

Website: http://www.jgrisham.com

Facebook: John Grisham

Twitter: @JohnGrisham

Instagram: @johngrishamauthor