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Book Review: Claim of Innocence by Laura Caldwell

claim of innocence laura caldwell Book Review: Claim of Innocence by Laura Caldwell

Having been out of the legal sphere for a good year, Izzy McNeil is worried that her well-honed skills are going to waste. So when her friend Maggie Bristol dangles the opportunity to come on board a murder trial, Izzy doesnt hesitateeven though her background is in civil, not criminal, law. But where Maggies what I dont know wont hurt me attitude means that shes happy to learn as little as possible about her clients guilt or innocence, Izzys after more than reasonable doubt. Convinced that theres more to defendant Valerie Solaras story than shes being told, Izzy begins an investigation of her own into Solaras past, turning up no few skeletons.

But its not just mere murder that Izzy has to deal with. Her personal life is a shambles, and interferes more than the prosecution. Theres her ex-fiance Sam, who after a substantial absence (and some worrying dodgy dealings in South America), arrives back on the scene with an announcement that although hes currently engaged, hell drop his current partner like a rock should Izzy give him the go-ahead. Theres Izzys dad, who has also made a comeback, although in this instance from thought-to-be-dead status. Theres Izzys new boy toy partner, Theo, about whom Izzy feels ambivalent, particularly with Sam back on the scene. And of course theres the small matter of getting her stalled career back on track.

Claim of Innocence'is, it turns out, part of a series, and I must admit a touch of bewilderment throughout the first chapter or so as I acclimatised myself to the various plot threads and characters whose existence had been mapped out in previous books. Theres very 'much a fish-out-of-water feel for the reader until introductions are made, and the characters and situations are teased outwhich, thankfully, happens after a chapter or two, although there are plenty of plot turns that to a reader familiar with the series would feel a little more smooth. Caldwells writing style is quick and blunt, with nary a metaphor or simile dirtying the page: its dialogue and action all the way. In a way, this works, as the reader sails along at such a pace that theres little time to question some of the clunkier elements of the novel (two of mine were: why is a civil lawyer taking on a criminal case? and why on earth would anyone so much as entertain Sams bizarre ultimatum, let alone meet him in a hotel to discuss it?). The brevity of the prose style makes light work of the many court room scenes of the novel, too, making what could be some seriously turgid scenes relatively painless.

The main mystery element of the novel unfolds quite neatly, although there are more red herrings here than at a fishmongers, and Caldwell isnt subtle about casting doubt on certain charactersthere are plenty of lowered glances, clammy hands, low voices, pointed fingers and mysterious absences going on. While its clear from the start that not everything is as it seems, the eventual reveal of the motivations behind the murder (and indeed the intended victim of the murder) didnt quite work for me. A jointly executed cold-blooded murder in these circumstances seems a little over-the-top, and one cant help but wonder why those in question didnt give an ultimatum of their own, or simply pick up the phone and call the authorities instead (yes, thats a rather oblique description, I know, but this is a mystery novel, and I dont want to invite tomato-hurling for revealing every twist in the book).

But perhaps what weakens the book is that theres so much going on, and so much of it in parallel: everything seems to happen twice, perhaps from an authorial fear of the reader not getting it. We have two men returning from the past and bringing with them certain baggage with which Izzy has to deal; two lonely private eyes trying to make it in the world; two separate women trying to figure out whether a fun boy toy relationship is all theyre after, or whether its something more (and indeed whether that younger man can be that something more). We even have two mysteries: the current court trial, and a separate but related closed case from some years earlier, the latter of which towards the end of the novel becomes the narrative focus, detracting somewhat from the impact of the final reveal of the present-day mystery.

But in all, Claim of Innocence'is solid enough: its a quick, fuss-free read with surprisingly likeable characters and enough humour (at least, Im assuming the reference to Izzys sleeveless lilac suit was meant to be humorous) to keep it from being too terse or dogged. Im not sure that Id recommend readers to leap into Izzys story mid-series, but mystery lovers and fans of relatively easy-going court-room dramas should enjoy this.

Your turn: whats your favourite court-room drama series?

Rating: star Book Review: Claim of Innocence by Laura Caldwellstar Book Review: Claim of Innocence by Laura Caldwellstar Book Review: Claim of Innocence by Laura Caldwellblankstar Book Review: Claim of Innocence by Laura Caldwellblankstar Book Review: Claim of Innocence by Laura Caldwell (good)

With thanks to Meryl L Moss Media Relations for the review copy

Purchase Claim of Innocence'from Amazon | Book Depository UK | Book Depository USA | Booktopia

Other books by Laura Caldwell:

look closely laura caldwell Book Review: Claim of Innocence by Laura Caldwellred white and dead laura caldwell Book Review: Claim of Innocence by Laura Caldwellred hot lies caldwell Book Review: Claim of Innocence by Laura Caldwellred blooded murder caldwell Book Review: Claim of Innocence by Laura Caldwell

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  1. Nice review, well done as always. I have not read any courtroom dream lately but have picked up a few favorite authors lately, one being Laurel Dewey.
    Thank you again for sharing.

    • Stephanie /

      Hi Leslie, thanks for visiting, and for your lovely comment. I wonder if courtroom dramas are as popular as they were, say, back in the 80s and 90s. Its not my usual genre, so I cant be sure myself. Thanks for the Laurel Dewey recommendation! :)

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