A scathing indictment of the Texas criminal justice system and a satisfying read with a cliffhanger ending.

RESUMED INNOCENT

Debut author Fomby (Private Eyes, 2017), a Texas attorney, takes on the entrenched legal system in Blair County, Texas, in the first installment of a new series featuring young criminal defense attorney Samantha “Sam” Tulley.

After her husband, Luke, was killed in a car crash, Sam left a promising career at a large Houston law firm to start her own small-town practice in criminal law, working out of her home in Blair County, where she raises her 3-year-old daughter. Her clients are mainly poor, with many sitting in the county lockup, unable to make bail. She’s spent a year handling mostly misdemeanor cases, but as this book opens, she’s representing Andrea Owens, a woman who’s been accused of stabbing her boyfriend, Robbie Johnson. Andrea’s defense is that Robbie was attacking her and that she was just holding the knife for protection. This is the first of several cases that Sam will handle over the course of the novel, and it’s also the one that causes her private-detective colleague, Randy Martinez, to warn her that moving into felony work has placed her in a new, and nasty, arena. The district attorney’s office, Randy tells her, isn’t just about “pulling legal tricks….These guys are in deep with the police and the sheriff’s department.” Evidently, they’re suspiciously connected to a few judges as well. Things heat up to a dangerous level when Samantha agrees to represent a man who’s been arrested for the gruesome triple murder of his wife and two children. The revolving legal stories presented here, with the exception of the murder trial, are all cases of “small crime”—less dramatic than the headline-grabbing cases but still of great consequence to those caught in the judicial bureaucracy—in which prejudices and soaring egos are routinely rewarded. Fomby nicely wraps the various stories around a narrative that develops Sam into a strong, fully developed protagonist who could easily serve as the engine of her own series. A melodramatic subplot involving Sam’s former in-laws may stretch readers’ credulity just a bit, but it rounds out her personal story as she fights the good fight for those without the money or influence to buy freedom from prosecution. The author came to the law late in life, embarking on a major career change at 50. But he’s accumulated enough legal experience to give his novel a constant momentum, creating realistic forays into case law, behind-the-scenes legal machinations, the process of jury selection, and courtroom fireworks. His lucid prose makes the legal jargon readable and informative, and he smoothly executes the transitions between Sam’s professional and personal lives. Harry Crawford, a third-year law student who’s Sam’s summer legal assistant, isn’t fully developed as a character, but he has the potential of becoming a solid secondary protagonist down the road. (Plus, he adds a hint of potential romance.) Overall, this novel is a welcome addition to the ever popular legal genre.

A scathing indictment of the Texas criminal justice system and a satisfying read with a cliffhanger ending.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9987555-1-9

Page Count: 377

Publisher: Book Ness Monster Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2017

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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