In Holms’ debut legal thriller, a crooked cop manipulates the justice system to wreak havoc on the lives of a judge, a fellow officer, and a young woman.
LAPD Sgt. Jake Babbage has been following young Erin Collins for some time because she looks just like her mother, Sarah, whom Babbage raped and murdered 19 years earlier. He pulls Erin over for a DUI and sexually assaults her. Erin and her older brother, Sean, a lawyer, take Babbage to court, but he manages to skirt the system. Babbage isn’t finished: he tricks Erin into violating her probation, and the Collins’ friend detective William Fitzgerald, who originally worked Sarah’s unsolved case, can’t prevent Erin’s arrest. Babbage then blackmails the judge presiding over Erin’s hearing, Daniel Hart—an unwitting accomplice to Sarah’s murder years ago when teen Daniel was unable to stop Babbage from killing her. The judge refuses to cooperate, so Babbage outright accuses Daniel of murder, with Babbage himself as the witness and Daniel facing criminal charges. The bulk of the author’s novel takes place inside a courtroom, with lawyers examining witnesses and repeatedly hurling objections. The story, however, is fast-paced thanks to sharp dialogue and intelligent legal arguments. For instance, Babbage’s claims regarding Erin, as argued by his attorney, are believable, especially since she may have been a willing participant to avoid jail for her DUI. Babbage is an unforgettable villain, particularly in the repulsive scene of his attack on Sarah. But Holms wisely inserts another antagonist into the courtroom: prosecutor Doris Reynolds plans to run against Daniel for judge at the next election, so she has every reason to see him convicted for murder. Sean’s dilemma is riveting: he must decide whether to join the prosecutors’ side or trust Daniel’s version of events and help exonerate him. For the lawyers, defense attorney Amanda Jordan is the champion; her legal wranglings with Reynolds provide the book’s juiciest morsels. The violent ending offers even more suspense, and not everyone’s still standing when it’s over.
Fans of legal thrillers will be appeased, but the energetic, brisk story makes a thoroughly enjoyable read for anyone.