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I stumbled across the name Mark Gimenez when in a branch of a well-known chain of bookstores who offer reading suggestions along the lines of 'If you like ................, you'll love............'. Gimenez was compared to John Grisham, an author who over the years has seemingly effortlessly turned out unputdownable legal thrillers, albeit with the odd hiccough along the way. It was his latest thriller that was advertised, but although I was immediately drawn to it, I decided eventually to go back to the start of his career in case of recurring characters, and so this debut novel is the first that I have read by him.
I must say that there are indeed very striking similarities between the two authors, to the point where had I been given this book and told it was by Grisham, I would never have questioned it. However in my opinion Gimenez also shares his more esteemed compatriot's ability to make his novels unputdownable. I certainly enjoyed this one very much, although with a slight sense of guilty pleasure in that you almost feel like you are reading the equivalent of a low brow US crime series.
The focus of the story is not so much the actual trial itself, which is to some extent a departure from a number of Grisham's novels, but the events leading up to the prosecution for murder of a young prostitute who has allegedly killed a wealthy senator's son. Successful attorney A Scott Fenney initially wants nothing to do with the case, but is gradually drawn into it, and the majority of the book deals with this process before the trail occupies the final hundred pages or so.
What I find so interesting about the novel is that the world which Gimemnez depicts is one which he used to inhabit before his relocation and subsequent career change, and it is a world which he clearly now despises in a similar manner to the contempt for big lawyer firms shown in his novels by yes, you guessed it, John Grisham. I can't help feeling that if he does ever go out in Dallas, he must end up in some rather uncomfortable situations with people with whom he used to work! However if you like this kind of thing, I guarantee you will enjoy this.
- Introduction -
As I mentioned in a previous book review a few weeks ago, I've been lucky enough to be able to choose from quite a large number of fiction novels we no longer wanted to offer or store as part of our fiction library, at the college library I work at. Anyway, this is the first novel that caught my eye, with a bright green and silver cover, it looked like a slick and modern book and on the back cover its classified as a thriller, which is my favourite type of novel, so I decided to give it a go and thus I took it home with me along with some others this month. I have also read a book by James Patterson and one by James Siegel but to be honest, I don't feel like I could review them well, although I want to give it a go and try reviewing this one instead, since I only just finished reading it today. Read on for more information on it and what I thought of it.
- Story -
'The Colour Of Law' is about A. Scott Fenney, a corporate lawyer based in the popular Highland Park district/town in Dallas, Texas, who has the kind of life that most people would envy - a mansion, a ferrari, a wife and kid (a daughter called Boo) and of course a well-paying job, as well as membership to the local country club and golf club. One day he makes a speech in which he appears to be very passionate about his profession and this gets the attention of a federal judge. After a local senators' son is killed, Scott is asked to defend the woman who's accused of his murder - a heroin addicted prostitute from the projects.
Scott has never taken on a case like this before, normally his clients are wealthy businessmen and its all about financial settlements, so he's rather taken aback and not best pleased when he finds out that he's been asked to defend a non-paying client, however, he comes to realise that her life is in his hands, as the defendent/accused could be sentenced to death if found guilty and things take a sinister turn as he decides to work on her case, which leads to his life changing quite dramatically. To find out how and whether or not he can save the defendents life, you'll have to read the book.
- More Basic Information -
The Colour Of Law is Mark Gimenez's debut novel. Its published by Time Warner Books and the paperback version I have is published by Sphere publishing, its 465 pages long, with 30 chapters, a prologue and an epilogue and at least the copy I had, also has a 29 page extract from another of the authors novels, called 'The Abduction'. The books RRP, according to the back cover/page is £6.99 (for the paperback) and the books ISBN is 978-0-7515-3789-5.
- Thoughts, Opinions & More Info. -
I have to say, after starting to read this book, compared to the other thriller novels I've read, this one didn't appeal to me as much. I knew it was obviously a legal based thrillers, indeed the quote from The Times on the front cover of the book proudly declares that Gimenez is 'The next Grisham' and I admit that I've never read a John Grisham book, though I've obviously heard of him and knowing how many successful books he's published, I thought it'd be worth a shot to see if this sort of legal thriller would interest me. I had to push myself to read past the first few chapters after the prologue, to be honest I didn't find myself feeling much sympathy or really much interest at all in the main character of Scott Fenney, someone who seemed to have everything and didn't seem to be particularly keen on taking on the case of the defendent, after all, being a lawyer is all about the money, right? and he hadn't lost a case yet, so your left wondering, why should we care about this guy?
I found that this novel is a bit of a 'slow burner'. I still wasn't too convinced that it was particularly enthralling by the time I was on the 100th page or so but having finished it, I'm quite glad that I stuck with it. It definitely does pick up pace wise about half way into the novel, when Scott ends up taking in the defendents daughter (called Pajamae), who then lives with his family while he prepares for her mothers trial, much to the horror of his wife but its quite nice to see how a friendship develops between Pajamae and Scotts daughter Boo. Pajamae gives Boo an insight into what life is like in 'the projects' and she makes Scott realise what he's fighting for, to save her mother who, while she is on one hand a prostitute junkie, she is also a mother that does clearly care alot for her daughter. The friendship between Pajamae and Boo is an interesting one and I guess you could say that it makes you think about the differences that exist between different existences, from the down-and-out, crime riddled 'ghetto' areas to the up-and-coming trendy rich areas. It was quite funny to read when Scott had to travel to 'the projects' in order to Pajamae to bring to her mother, the accused (a lady in her twenties called Shawanda), this was originally to get her to settle down and 'shut up' pretty much and it was only because he was basically scared for his safety when he drove his fancy sportscar to such an area, that he decided not to take Pajame back right away after she had visited her mother, rather than necessarily out of any compassion for her wellbeing, given that her father had left the scene and her mother is all she's left with.
Scotts character and personality does clearly change as the novel continues and its interesting to see how he responds to the different threats he gets and indeed, its sad to see how his whole lifestyle ends up being badly affected because he finds someone to testify that the victim had raped before. I did almost feel sorry for Scott in parts and towards the end of the book, I was kind of proud of how he came to realise things about the life he had been living and seeing how he answered some of the questions that Boo and Pajamae asked was interesting. Yes, this is a legal thriller but th emajority of the novel isn't set in a court room, its not too legal in that respect, there's quite alot of background information about the main character, Scott, though I didn't read it all in great detail, I tended to skim past longer paragraphs that didn't appear too important. I can get rather bored of reading long paragraphs that refer to past events that don't have a direct link to the story but I ended up reading the majority of the novel and I didn't feel like I lost much by skipping the odd paragraph or so if it seemed to veer off a little and by about half way into the novel, I was becoming more interested in the different characters and took more time to read it in more detail.
Compared to the other novels I've read recently, this book has longer chapters and so its a bit less easy in terms of reading only a few pages at a time, or dipping in and out of, like I like to do, which put me off a bit too. However, as I say I did become alot more keen on it once the pace 'hot up'. There are quite a few characters involved but it kept things interesting and definitely the stars of the novel were the two children, both a similar age of around nine years old, Boo and Pajamae.
I guess you could say that this novel is about someone who's made to question their standing in life and what really matters, which might seem a bit mushy and I wouldn't say that its overly mushy, infact I like the way that the trial was handled (which I won't say too much about for fear of giving away too much about the ending). Its not entirely a happy ending but you don't feel cheated yet either, it makes you think, I will say that much...
I don't tend to read legal thrillers, as I say this is about the only book of this type that I've read really and I was rather sceptical about it at first but I'm glad I stuck with it, as I do feel that it became more interesting and I felt more interested in the characters and intrigued to find out what the outcome would be for the lives of those involved, once it gathered pace. Its not the sort of book that you'd necessarily want to read if you prefer to dip in and out and read maybe a few pages at a time every so often, if your looking for an action packed adventure or anything like that but as a legal thriller of this type, it seemed a pretty good book. Its worth sticking with, in my opinion, though it is a rather long read, or for me it was anyway.
- Would I Recommend It? -
Yes, I think its quite a good novel, it just takes a while to shine to the characters. I wasn't sure about it at first but over the last few days, I was quite looking forward to spending a bit of time reading it and finding out what would happen to Scott and Shawanda. It seems, somewhat unfortunately you could say, quite realistic and believable too, I think, which is a plus and its not full of legal 'mumbo jumbo', which is good too. I can't comment on whether or not Gimenez is as good as John Grisham, since I really haven't read any of Grisham's novels but having read to the end of 'The Colour Of Law', I wouldn't say no to reading another of his novels, probably not in the near future but at some point if I saw another title/book cover of his that looked intriguing, I'd definitely give it a go - so yes, I'd recommend this book.
I hope you found my review useful, thanks for reading (I'm kind of new at reviewing books I guess, so I hope this was of use!) and for any and all r/r/c's. This review is also posted by me on Ciao UK under the same name.
If you like legal books in the early John Grisham mould then you will love this debut novel.
I was immediately hooked from reading the prologue and read the whole book in one sitting.
The story is about a selfish, greedy, Dallas hotshot corporate lawyer in a Dallas law firm (A. Scott Fenney). At 33, he has everything, earns $750k per year, drives a Ferrari and comes home nightly to a mansion in one of Dallas's more exclusive neighbourhoods. Life could not be better as long as the money rolls in and he doesn't have to do any proper legal stuff or believe in justice.
He will step on anyone to get more until one day he is forced to take a case against his will/wishes by a manipulative judge. His initial reaction is to refuse and attempt to wiggle his way out of the case as he is forced to defend a black, heroin addict prostitute for the murder of the local Senator's son and next likely president of the US.
He has to weigh up if he is willing to sacrifice everything he holds dear: lifestyle/money/social standing/family/ferrari etc etc against his belief in justice (which he hasn't actually practiced since becoming a lawyer). Should he refuse the case thereby taking on the wrath of the judge or take it and endure the wrath of his partners and also knowing the father of the deceased will be prepared to test his resolve at every stage?
A very enjoyable book that covers race discrimination, money obsessed lawyers and a yes/no decision that will change both the lawyers and defendants life's forever, whichever way the decision comes down.
The author makes constant references throughout the book to To Kill A Mockingbird and was obviously inspired by Harper Lee. In fact, the daughter of the main character is called Boo and it is not clear what relevence this has got to the story until the end.
All the characters within the book develop very well and it is interesting to see the main character change because whilst he still believes in the principles of justice, this is something he has never had to practice thus far. The details of the case force him to question his own conscience and go down a path he would never have thought possible.
His daughter Boo and the daughter of the accused, who is a similar age, strike up a very close friendship and they are delightful characters who are however, a little too wise beyond their years but this only addds to the plot.
I don't really want to go into any more detail as this may spoil the story - it was unputdownable!! This is a book that will grip you from the start and not let you go.
Hardback version can be picked up on Amazon for 50p (plus p&p). I bought mine from Waterstones for £10 as it had a disclaimer on it saying "better than Grisham or your money back". So I thought there was nothing to lose!
Needless to say I didn't take Waterstones up on their offer.
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group (2 Mar 2006)
Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.8 x 4.2 cm
A. Scott Fenney is a hotshot corporate lawyer at a big Dallas firm. At 33, in the prime of his life, he rakes in $750,000 a year, drives a Ferrari and comes home every night to a mansion in Dallas's most exclusive neighbourhood. He also comes home to one of Dallas's most beautiful women, with whom he has a much-loved daughter, Boo. For Fenney, life could not be better. But when a senator's son is killed in a hit-and-run, Fenney is asked by the state judge to put his air-conditioned lifestyle on hold to defend the accused: a black, heroin-addicted prostitute - a very different client to the people Fenney usually represents. And, more importantly, she is not going be paying Ford Stevens $350 an hour for the privilege of his services. Under fire from all sides, Fenney drafts in a public defender to take the case on. Yet as Scott prepares to hand over to Bobby, he feels increasingly guilty about the path he is taking, because Scott still believes in the principle of justice. The question is: does he believe in it strongly enough to jeopardise everything in his life he holds dear. And to what lengths is the dead man's power-hungry father prepared to go to test Fenney's resolve?