A man who’s unlucky in love finds himself trapped inside the legal system in Millhollin’s (Forever Bound, 2017, etc.) latest thriller.
Millhollin has drawn on his four decades as a practicing attorney and his knowledge of his retirement city of Nashville in several of his legal thrillers. At the center of his latest is a new character, veteran private investigator Barrett Armstrong, who starts dating Layla Adams, the secretary to Charles Whitmore, the assistant district attorney for Davidson County. In a short time, however, Layla cools on Barrett without explanation and publicly breaks up with him. As a result, he becomes the obvious suspect when Layla is found brutally murdered. Whitmore indicts Barrett and stops seeking any other potential suspects—in part because Whitmore’s drug-abusing son, Michael, had attempted to run Layla down. Barrett has two people on his side: John Weatherly, his longtime best friend and lawyer; and Kris Thompson, another PI who hopes to partner with Barrett after the trial. However, John puts up a lukewarm defense, leaving it to Kris to save Barrett from prison. The strength of Millhollin’s novel is his intricate knowledge of the legal system—particularly when he examines what happens when best practices are ignored for the falsely accused. The sturdy narrative has a stop-and-go pacing that reflects that of real-life court systems, and the author reveals how a defendant without an alibi, such as Barrett, can be convicted on merely circumstantial evidence. The novel’s main flaw, however, is that its protagonist becomes a weaker and less interesting character as the narrative progresses, to the degree that readers may wonder why Kris is working so hard to prove his innocence. Still, Barrett and Kris do exhibit good chemistry after she drags him out of his jail-induced funk. After dropping a red herring regarding the identity of the killer, Millhollin pulls off a twisty, satisfying ending.
An often engaging mystery-series starter.