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March 3, 2012 / John Sheridan

Review: Guilt by Association by Marcia Clark

Links: Amazon, Amazon UK, Book Depository UK

Personally I’m always wary of celebrity authors believing that the celebrity part of the equation has been more instrumental in getting the book published than anything else so I approached Marcia Clark’s “Guilt by Association” with caution given she is best known for being the lead prosecutor in the OJ Simpson trial. But let’s face it there are any number of ex-lawyers that have become authors and here the title of Lawrence Block’s “Telling Lies for Fun & Profit” springs to mind because isn’t that what lawyers do on a daily basis? Or is that just defense attorneys? So the legal profession I guess must be the exception to my rule and definitely in this case my suspicion was misplaced for this is an assured debut.

The novel starts with a scene outlining the camaraderie in the DA’s office following a victory which introduces some of the main characters and quickly establishes the professional level relationship that exists where you know someone without knowing anything about their personal lives.

I was struck on occasion by Knight displaying a manner of internal observations reminiscent of Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller though Rachel Knight sits on the opposite side of the fence to Haller as a prosecutor.

I know that there are plenty of authors out there with female leads but it’s an area I’ve neglected personally so I found it refreshing to have predominantly female characters. There was definitely a different twist to the banter between Knight and Bailey (lead detective) that helped personalise them and bring both them and their concerns to life for me which was helped as well by the ups and downs in their various relationships.

“For the next three days, we hit the Oki-Dog. Sitting as far away and unobtrusively as possible, we scanned the motley gathering for the Aryan Brotherhood guy Hector had described, and made plans for how we’d squeeze him like a lemon when we found him. So far the only thing I’d squeezed was my gut as my jeans got tighter by the day. If we didn’t catch this guy soon, I’d have to buy a whole new wardrobe.”

There were some passages that I felt didn’t work e.g. why the interlude with delivering food to the homeless as it didn’t progress the story at all and felt forced as if to emphasise the goodness in Knight but ultimately came across as contrived and out-of-character.

There are two seemingly unconnected cases  – one the rape of the daughter of a large campaign contributor to the DA and the other an apparent murder-suicide involving an associate of Knight’s in the DA’s office with possible pedophile implications.

Knight is supposed to focus on the former in order to appease the political influence but just can’t leave the other case alone despite blunt warnings to cease and desist. For a person that at times comes across as a real straight arrow there are innumerable ways to circumvent instructions including impersonating a defense attorney in order to smuggle a gang leader into jail as a paralegal to confer with one of his associates. That plus calling in favours from your friends in the police and coroner’s office will help you progress a case very quickly and besides it’s results that count. Luckily for all involved that she isn’t deterred easily as those seemingly unrelated cases are intertwined in ways nobody could have imagined.

Guilt by Association is one for those that enjoy legal thrillers. Look out for Marcia Clark’s second Rachel Knight novel, Guilt by Degrees (Amazon, Amazon UK, Book Depository UK), coming in May 2012.

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