In Defense of Guilt
This was a very new take on the traditional courtroom drama type novel. Not only is the author, Benjamin H. Berkley a contributing writer for the ever-popular Huffington Post, he’s also actually been practicing law for over forty years. I point that out because it definitely gives an element of truth to the courtroom scenes in the novel. It also makes the courtroom rhetoric flow much more effortlessly and come across a whole lot more believable.
This book definitely pulls together an interesting emotional maze. I swear it would totally make a fantastic Lifetime movie. I am going to do this review in a slightly different format because I think it might be a little easier to follow and it might be more fun…well, for me at least. Ha ha ha!!! Since it IS a book, I don’t have actual images for the characters so…we’ll have to just do without. So, here we go.
Meet Lauren Hill. She is a successful defense attorney. She’s never lost a case. She is the epitome of the butt of every lawyer joke you can possibly imagine. She has an attitude and an ego that both rival her acquittal rate. She is currently defending a man, Martin Maze, who is on trial for killing his wife. He maintains his innocence. She doesn’t care. Hill is unhappily married to her husband Dennis and has a teenaged daughter Constance, both of whom she hardly ever sees. Or interacts with.
Next, there’s Ryan Thompson. This self-assured young man is Lauren’s assistant. His job is to do whatever Ms. Hill tells him to. At this point, in his career and hers, his job is to act as co-counsel when needed (not that Lauren would EVER ask for help), pass her papers when in court, get coffee, make sure witnesses (and the defendant) make it to court and to babysit the defendant, Martin Maze.
Enter Martin Maze. Here we have an awkward shell of a man, destroyed by the loss of his wife and his inability to grieve due to having to fight for his own life. The Prosecution asserts that Maze threw his wife overboard while they were on a cruise. A cruise that was supposed to be a second honeymoon of sorts. Maze vehemently denies any wrongdoing in the matters concerning the untimely departure of his wife from this earth.
And of course we need the Prosecutor, Bradley, the fearless champion of the State. This is a very competent legal professional that has made one fatal career mistake. He is sleeping with opposing counsel. They are really smooth and do a great job of keeping it on the down low but, that’s practically career suicide in any job. Sleeping with co-workers, statistically, usually doesn’t work out well. However, yes, I know, there are exceptions.
Now, where would we be in a trial without a Judge to preside over the whole proceedings. In this case, that lucky judicious warrior of truth is Judge Howell. Howell knows both attorneys, Lauren Hill and Bradley. Judge Howell is a huge supporter of Lauren’s and thinks she is a fantastic and talented lawyer.
Constance is Lauren’s daughter. The poor kid is having a hard time adjusting to, well, everything. She’s dealing with teen angst, a breaking family, a mother that values her career more than life itself, knowing her mom is cheating on her dad. She also feels like her mother shuts her out a lot and isn’t interested in her at all, who she’s with, what’s going on in her life, where she’s at…nothing. Constance feels totally alone, unwanted and unloved, even forgotten by her mother. As with most teens, these emotions cause Constance to act out in ways that most parents would not approve of.
Finally, there’s Dennis. Dennis is Lauren’s husband. He is still completely in love with his wife regardless of the fact that she makes it perfectly clear that his mere existence and drawing breath in the same room as she is almost more than she can stomach. This is breaking Dennis’s heart more and more each day. He lives his life a partially broken man, trying to be as best of a father he can for his daughter. Dennis has dreams of being a writer but Lauren constantly beats him down and tells him it’s a ridiculous aspiration to pursue.
Now, while in court for Mr. Maze’s case, Lauren starts to experience some things that not only can she not explain but, she feels compelled to keep it to herself as she is positive NO ONE will believe her. What is her big secret?
Right in the middle of a side-bar conference with the judge at her bench, Lauren all of a sudden sees Judge Howell morph into, well, God. Yes, God. White hair, robe, the works. Can you imagine what that must be like to be a defense attorney in a murder trial, spinning the truth and facts and in the blink of an eye, you are face to face with God? Would you not feel like a total schmucko for at least a few seconds?
The rest of the story is about how Lauren deals with this new courtroom visitor, if he is real or in her head, the rest of the trial, her problems with her husband and kid, and oh yeah, the prosecutor she’s hookin’ up with on the side. This chick has a lot of stuff going on that could go really bad really fast if she’s not careful. But, does it?
I was a little leery of this story because of the religious aspect but, I have to say, I thought it all came together pretty well. While it may not have been something I would have normally bought off the shelves at the bookstore, I am glad that I was given a chance to read it. It didn’t take me very long to get through it. I do attribute a lot of that to the courtroom drama writing of the author. It was really good as far as that goes. But, there was a steady suspense/cliffhanger type factor to it too that really kept the pages flipping fast.
While I can’t recommend this for just anyone, I can totally see the people who are CourtTV buffs or perhaps crime drama buffs liking this. It definitely has a John Grisham type feel to it which can give you chills and increase your heartrate at the same time! I think this author has a special talent for the fictional law and courtroom drama stories and would really like to see more of that.
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