In his debut novel, Shamas fictionalizes a horrifying murder case from his long career as an Arizona defense attorney.
The narrative follows attorney Bruce Sanah as he puts together a defense for a client who may or may not be guilty: the ambiguous Bill Castro, charged with the sexualized murder of a young single mother. Rather than reading like a sensationalized true-crime novel, however, Shamas’ title offers a glimpse into a legal office throughout the course of a trial. Readers discover how defense attorneys and their employees investigate, assemble and conduct various stages of trial preparation. Is Bill guilty? Not even his attorney—and thus readers—can anticipate how events will unfold during Castro’s case. Instead, Shamas’ alter ego focuses on interviewing private detectives, anticipating how the prosecution will handle his client and trying to build a strong defense. Although Shamas walks a fine line—declaring that he has changed some identifying details—the novel’s events seem incredibly realistic and the descriptions thinly veiled. The author eschews the more literary, novelistic approach of popular legal writers like John Grisham, but his prosaic approach to the genre is deeply engrossing. Characters behave like real people, not larger-than-life figures. Readers are granted unusual behind-the-scenes access as the legal team grapples with setbacks and questions the innocence of a client accused of a serious, disturbing crime. Ultimately, the book offers a compelling and eerie look at the American justice system.
Shamas’ understated approach is a welcome change in the genre of legal fiction.