Free of Malice by Liz Lazarus

Free of Malice

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After a woman is attacked in her own home, she struggles to return to her “before” life in this cathartic and empowering suspense thriller.

On a night her husband is away on a business trip, Laura Holland, an Atlanta-based freelance journalist, fends off a home intruder, who threatens to return. Traumatized and haunted by recurring nightmares, she reluctantly undergoes therapy and is later compelled to buy a gun and write a story about women, self-defense, and the legal system. “I’m wondering if I could have legally shot him as he fled,” she tells Thomas Bennett, a defense attorney. “I would have considered it self-defense, but if the law says it wasn’t, I want to understand why.” As the two collaborate on a proposed magazine story, Laura’s paranoia escalates. She begins to suspect that Thomas may actually be her attacker. Loosely based on the author’s personal experience, Lazarus’ debut novel is reminiscent of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, but it’s much less twisted. The book primarily spans July through December, with each chapter covering a specific day. Laura is the primary narrator, but on a mere three occasions, chapters are devoted to the third-person perspectives of, respectively, Barbara Cole, her therapist; Chris, her husband; and Thomas. Facsimiles of Laura’s therapist’s session notes, a relevant business card, a Miranda rights card, and a reprint of the poem “Desiderata” add a docudrama gravitas to the story. False scares and misdirection keep readers off guard, but suspense isn’t the primary draw here. The book, instead, is more interesting and educational as a hypothetical courtroom drama as Thomas meticulously lays out myriad case scenarios had Laura shot her attacker. There is plenty of fodder for discussion about gun ownership, the right to protect oneself, and the judicial system. The book also delves into the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapeutic techniques. Lazarus writes with authority in these sections that deal with the emotional and psychological wounds wrought by attempted violence against women.

Not quite Gone; a thriller that works best as a legal exercise.

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-9909374-0-1
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Mitchell Cove Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
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