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BLEEDOUT by Joan Brady

BLEEDOUT

By Joan Brady

Pub Date: March 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-7432-7008-8
Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Thriller about a blind Illinois lawyer and his protégé hits more often than it misses.

Why does ex-con David Marion show up at the funeral of blind lawyer Hugh Freyl? That’s one of several questions Whitbread-winner Brady (for Theory of War, 1993; etc.), a former New York City Ballet dancer, sets spinning at the core of her well-constructed plot. Hugh was brutally murdered, and Marion is a prime suspect. The victim’s mother, Becky, hisses disapproval—as only one-dimensional characters can—and she’s backed by some of Springfield’s most prominent citizens. They turn out to be hypocrites—a situation so old it threatens to turn readers away. But Marion’s narrative, interwoven with Hugh’s first-person account of the past (coming from either diary or grave), builds considerable momentum. Marion had gone to prison at 15 for the gruesome murders of his foster father and foster brother; but, tutoring Marion in prison, Hugh recalls he became convinced that the prisoner’s truculence masked a sensitive, intelligent man innocent of his crimes. Going over the young man’s case, Hugh and assistant Stephanie Willis uncovered missing evidence that pointed to a cover-up. Hugh also found grim evidence of Marion’s abuse as a child and as an inmate. (The latter, bolstered by the victim’s recollections, builds a strong case for prison reform, a cause the author rather clearly supports.) Moving the story forward, Marion comes up with an alibi that clears him of Hugh’s murder, allowing him to track the killler with Stephanie’s solid assistance. The two of them track suspicious and complicated financial schemes at Hugh’s law firm. Eventually, they find the real killer, and many other others who could have been the killer (Springfield does not come off as a very nice place).

Strong characters (Marion and Hugh), tricky cases, and some sharp description win out over the clichés and stereotypes lurking in the background.