MORAL DEFENSE by Marcia Clark


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A murdered family leaves only one survivor in this second roller-coaster case for Los Angeles attorney Samantha Brinkman.

Not content with stabbing high school senior Abel Sonnenberg to death, or maybe just surprised that a sudden case of food poisoning has sent his parents home early from their date night, someone attacks Stephen and Paula Sonnenberg as well, leaving him dead and her critically wounded. Detective Westin Emmons, of the Glendale Police, naturally takes a lively interest in Cassie Sonnenberg, the adopted 15-year-old daughter who somehow managed to survive this massacre, perhaps because she carried it out. Tiegan Donner, Cassie’s teacher and counselor, begs Sam to represent Cassie, who certainly needs someone in her corner, and Sam settles in to listen to the first of many stories Cassie will tell her, some of them backed up by hard evidence, others not so much. While this pot is boiling furiously, Clark cuts away repeatedly to two other cases: a request by Sam’s father, Dale Pearson, an LAPD cop she’s already defended on murder charges (Blood Defense, 2016), to look into Julio Valenzuela’s allegations that Dale’s fellow officer Kevin Hausch used excessive force in his arrest; and the ongoing saga of Ernesto Orozco and his son Arturo, who want Sam to identify the person who secretly arranged for Arturo’s brother, Ricardo, to get sent to a prison unit where rival gang members were certain to kill him—not knowing that the sneaky culprit this time was Sam herself. Cassie’s case, complicated by a disturbing echo of Sam’s own teenage years, builds to a rare intensity that’s undermined every time Clark (The Competition, 2014, etc.) drops it for one of Sam’s other two problems, one of which seems likely to hang over her head in the sequel.

Teen angst, dueling conspirators, human smugglers, cops of every moral stripe, and a lawyer heroine whose behavior ranges from the naively credulous to the downright criminal. Whatever you read legal fiction for, it’s here, along with quite a bit of other stuff.

Pub Date: Nov. 8th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-5039-3977-6
Page count: 460pp
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2016


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