A former high school football star attempts to prove a convicted murderer’s innocence while adjusting to a permanent injury.
Champion quarterback Matt Barnes’ life and identity revolved around football. After a snowboarding accident left him with a permanent limp, Matt feels adrift. He finds a new role when he accepts an internship with Justice Project, an organization that defends wrongfully convicted prisoners, and takes on the case of a man serving time for murdering his parents 21 years before. Unfortunately, Matt’s partnered with Sonya, his brilliant, if irritating, rival, and their search for the real killer seems hopeless; the remaining witnesses would rather discuss the state championship than long-ago murders, and promising leads hit dead ends. His hometown’s obsession with football lends sympathy to Matt’s depression and occasional self-pity, and Matt’s halting steps toward self-acceptance are believable. Though Betcherman’s (Face-Off, 2014, etc.) expository prose and dialogue slow the pacing and render emotional topics somewhat flat, his overview of wrongful conviction and its psychological toll on prisoners and their families may compel readers to seek further information. An author’s note explains the real-life cases that inspired the plot and provides links to related websites. Most characters default to white, but naming conventions and hairstyles may be intended to imply some racial or ethnic diversity; Sonya is gay, closeted, and possibly black.
Thought-provoking if not especially engaging. (author’s note) (Mystery. 14-18)