This book was always going to be a winner for me – a legal thriller in a setting that feels like Desperate Housewives meets The O.C. Throw in a charming little girl to steal the show by wrapping her daddy ‘round her little finger, and Gimenezwould have to do a lot wrong for me to not enjoy this book. He actually does a lot right. There has been much comparison of Giminez’s debut to John Grisham. This is probably a little premature in consideration of Grisham’s prolific level of output. However, it is indisputable that Gimenezknows how to spin a great legal yarn. If that is what it takes to be Grisham, then he is certainly in that league.
The story opens with a dramatis personae of thoroughly obnoxious, rich, corrupt men and the murder of one of their sons. He is found shot dead with the gun used still at the scene of crime, covered in a hooker’s fingerprints. Rich white community, poor black hooker. Even if she’s innocent, it looks like it will make little difference in this narrative riddled with stereotypes. Our protagonist, lawyer Scott Feeney, is not the regular Grisham-esque young, newly-qualified legal talent. He is not desperate to make some great moral difference to the world; he’s ten years too late for that. He is one of them, a cynical rich lawyer after his next fat fee. He has to bill huge numbers of hours to maintain his mortgaged lifestyle and expensive wife.
Gimenez’s portrayal of the central characters is brash, lavish and full of vigour and enthusiasm. Bad characters are very bad, and good people shine through like beacons. To begin with, Feeney’s daughter, Boo, is the only obvious light. It is through Feeney’s wonderful relationship with her that begins to suggest Feeney is not entirely lost to the green dollar signs that permeate everyone else’s thoughts, dreams and motivation.
Feeney is the shining star of everything of which he has ever been a part. When he is inconveniently assigned by the Federal Court to defend Showanda, the prostitute charged with killing the senator’s son, it threatens to distract him from billing corporate fees. However, it seems that he will be able to palm it off to old law school pal Bobby Herrin, a poor criminal defense lawyer, and Feeney will escape, untouchable as ever. Obviously, he fails and is stuck with the case. Gimenez is nothing but predictable, but with such vibrant, larger-than-life characters and pace, it really does not matter.
Once Feeney commits to being Showanda’s lawyer, his life is affected in a way he could never have imagined. The rich, powerful circles created his lifestyle, and they will use the power to now destroy it if he does not tread the community line. He is not entirely convinced of his client’s guilt, however. His conscience begins to overpower his greed as he defies the powerful men whose acceptance he once craved.
Alongside Feeney, Herrin and Book, the goodies’ corner is further bolstered by the addition of Showanda’s daughter, Pajamae. She can melt any heart while maintaining nerves of steel and a worldly sense that no nine-year-old should have. Without overplaying her, Gimenez knows that it is as much for this fantastic little girl as for what is right that any reader will be rooting for Feeney to win.
This will be one of my most loaned-out books this summer – it is one of the best holiday reads I could wish for anyone. One final thought on finishing it, though; every review I’ve seen compares to Grisham and references it to To Kill A Mockingbird. However, there is more than a touch of Wolfe’s The Bonfire Of The Vanities about it – read it and see what you think.