Have you been in an accident at work and are looking for compensation? Well dont call attorney-in-law Paul Madriani because he specialises in murder one cases! In todays society it seems that we live in a compensation culture; everyone always looking for a handout. To be honest I think this is a bit of a fallacy as the only person I know who has sued recently was because their torn Achilles went untreated for 2 months because the doctors kept saying it was a sprained ankle. It got to the point where they had to have their Achilles tendon re-cut and healed! People deserve the right to a defence and this is even more important in criminal cases. Many people involved in crime are poor and can not afford a lawyer, but they deserve one. Even when you see what looks like an obvious terrorist get a lawyer you have to put aside your feelings that the lawyer is just a publicity whore and let the alleged have a defence. Perhaps if you kill someone in the world of literature you may just get Madriani as your defender?
Why is it that if you exist in fiction that your friends will invariably be killed, kidnapped or be accused of murder? This is exactly what happens to Paul Madriani, ace attorney-in-law, when he moves to California and meets an old friend. This friend is a lottery winner, but money can not buy him the return of his granddaughter who has been kidnapped by his drug addicted daughter. This is not Madrianis usual type of case, but it soon turn into one when a woman who aided in the kidnapping of the girl is found shot dead. Can Madriani uncover the truth behind the murder and find the missing girl before more than one innocent life is ruined?
When reading this book the first 100 pages left me uncomfortable and questioning the mindset of author Steve Martini. This was because he introduces one of the most selfish and vile characters I have read. Normally this bad guy is just that a guy, however, Martini writes about a woman who uses the law to justify kidnapping children. He tries to explain this characters motives by introducing an inbuilt hatred for men after she was beaten and raped by a former partner. However, I did not feel that this was enough and that Martini comes across as very chauvinistic and patronising. Luckily this character does not play a huge role after the start of the book but it did mean that there was an uphill struggle for me to enjoy the rest of the novel.
If you are able to overcome the initial misjudged bile at the start of the book there is a plot and characters worth pursuing ish. I dont know if it was just me but I felt that the main character, Madriani, came across as a little smug and not quite the everyman that seems to be the protagonist in Grishams novels. This maybe because I am reading the books out of order, he is ok, but a bit bland. The characters all feel like they came out of a script for a daytime American drama and are not as fully rounded as I would have liked. The fact that none of the characters gripped me meant that I could not get as involved in the story as perhaps should have been warranted.
This is a shame as the story when it gets going is actually the novels best asset. Large chunks of the middle of the book are set in the courtroom, and rather than this being the most boring part of the book, they were easily the best. It is clear that Martini knows his onions when it comes to the courtroom and he is able to give the potentially dull process of evidence and witness questioning a sharp edge. I found the process of uncovering the truth in the court the best part of the book and easily up to the standard of Grisham. It is a shame that this standard can not follow through outside the courtroom as the scenes that see Madriani and co. hunt down the clues are derivative at best. I also felt that the final set piece of the book was misjudged and a bit messy. I wont say this very often but this book could have done with less action and more talking in the courtroom!
When all is said and done this book remains a deeply flawed yet interesting read. It does not set out to be anything more than a light read and successfully achieves the bubblegum for the brain mantra. However, within the mediocre story are court scenes that stand out; however, they are easily undone by the haphazard mystery sections and ill judged ending. I think that I will read more books by Steve Martini as I am impressed with his writings on the law. I just hope that he writes a better story in the future.
Author: Steve Martini
Price: amazon uk - £6.99
Tired of the corrosive politics of Capital City, hot-shot lawyer Paul Madriani has reached a watershed in his life and moves to San Diego, but when he meets an old client whose 8 year-old granddaughter has been abducted, he is drawn to a case which destroys all he believes in.