I recently commented on the fact it’d been a while since I’d read a legal thriller. Brad Park’s Say Nothing was the first in a while and now I’ve added to that with a debut novel by practising lawyer William (Bill) L Myers Jr who – most certainly – knows his stuff.
When a young reporter is found dead and a prominent Philadelphia businessman is accused of her murder, Mick McFarland finds himself involved in the case of his life. The defendant, David Hanson, was Mick’s close friend in law school, and the victim, a TV news reporter, had reached out to Mick for legal help only hours before her death.
Mick’s played both sides of Philadelphia’s courtrooms. As a top-shelf defense attorney and former prosecutor, he knows all the tricks of the trade.
And he’ll need every one of them to win.
But as the trial progresses, he’s disturbed by developments that confirm his deepest fears. This trial, one that already hits too close to home, may jeopardize his firm, his family—everything. Now Mick’s only way out is to mastermind the most brilliant defense he’s ever spun, one that will cross every legal and moral boundary.
If I could have I probably would have read this in a sitting, but fate (well, life) intervened. It’s also a bit longer than a book suited to easy reading (at almost 400 pages). In fact, it felt like a dense read. I don’t mean that negatively… more that it was complex with a lot of detail and many many layers.
I assumed, on starting this book, that it would focus on Mick attempting to free Justin Bauer who he believes has been unjustly jailed for murder. Getting an appeal has been a long process for Justin’s beleaguered mother Celine and I assumed the case in question would involve revisiting Justin’s past.
It wasn’t the case however and we soon meet Mick’s old university friend David; and Mick (and his team) get to work on David’s defence. However… there’s obviously some tension simmering beneath the surface. Whether it relates to old bad blood between the former Uni friends isn’t clear. But it’s intriguing.
And then there’s Mick’s marriage to Piper. Myers revisits their first meeting and the early days of their relationship, as well as their wedding and the arrival of their daughter, Gabby… who’s obviously the light of Mick’s life. We also learn that Mick was a rising star in the DA’s office before setting up in partnership as a defence attorney.
We get a glimpse of why…
People like Celine and Justin are the reason I left the DA’s office to become a defense attorney. The reason I often violate the sacred rule of lawyering: don’t get personally involved. When I care about the client, it’s always personal for me. p 3
Mick’s relationship with Piper is also tense, or rather, polite. There’s an obvious distance between the couple and Myers slowly ekes out the reason – although it’s easy to make some guesses early on.
The book’s written from Mick’s point of view, so we’re privy to everything happening in his head…. well, what he’s prepared to voice anyway. We know there are secrets, and we know Mick’s keeping some. He tells us so.
In the background there’s no shortage of suspects for the crime at hand. The victim has just blown apart the Philadelphia police service with allegations of corruption and drug dealing. She was on the verge of being forced to share her confidential source when murdered.
Mick’s an interesting character and very much our centre of attention. But he’s surrounded by a good supporting cast, including Piper, his brother (and ex-con) Tommy and colleagues at his law firm; and of course, David Hanson and his wife Marcie.
I appreciated the fact that Myers included the financial challenges of his legal partnership. When the book opens Mick talks about being able to take on cases like the Bauers because of high paying clients like the corporations and the guilty he’s forced to defend.
Many of my clients are guilty of everything they’re charged with, and then some. They don’t hire me to get justice but to avoid it at all costs….
I care about those clients about as much as they care about everyone else—I’m only in it for the money. p 3
Myers does a great job of keeping secrets and offering false leads… even though we’re in the story-teller’s head. And though I guessed at some of the secrets I was completely gobsmacked at one of the key twists. In fact… I gasped. Out loud.
This page-turner reminded me of early Scott Turow, in the guise of his well-known debut, Presumed Innocent and I look forward to more from Myers.
A Criminal Defense by William L Myers Jr was published by Thomas & Mercer on 1 April 2017.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley from the publisher for review purposes.
* PS. In case you’re wondering I’ve used the Australian spelling of ‘defence’ when used as a noun, but left the US spelling (defense) where I’m quoting from the novel.