Let me begin by apologizing for the late post and follow up that apology with another apology because I’m about to tell you about a book that the more I think about it the more annoyed I get. You may have noticed that I’ve been studying to take the Bar Exam, which is both why this review is late (recovery time from the mental and physical exhaustion) and also, mostly likely the reason I am so frustrated by Moral Defense by Marcia Clark. Now, I want to preface this by noting that I adore Marcia Clark’s Rachel Knight series and would highly recommend it. Something about her Samantha Brinkman series is just not appealing to me in the same way. So, let’s get started!
Also, sorry for the less than stellar quality of this picture. I thought I would try for an artsy looking shot, but I was too lazy to make my bed or expend any real effort so… Here’s the book, laying on my bed. It has a nice cover, right?
In 2015, Marcia Clark released Blood Defense, which was the first in her new series about a criminal defense attorney named Samantha Brinkman who struggles financially, puts justice over the law, and… She’s a very interesting, very unlikeable character. In the first book, she lands a case where a cop is accused of murdering his actress girlfriend, but he maintains his innocence. His identity makes for an interesting plot point so I won’t spoil it for you, in case you decide to read it. The second book, Sam gets a request from a school counselor to handle a case for one of her students whose adopted family was just brutally murdered. The case is horrific and when the girl discloses to Sam that she was being sexually assaulted by her adopted brother and sometimes her adopted father, the case starts to hit a little close to home. This book is full of twists and turns and there are four different cases happening simultaneously that never seemed to have anything to one another, until suddenly, everything was wrapped up in a neat little bow.
TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR THIS BOOK: Child sexual abuse (like a lot)
On the one hand, I love that she’s an unlikeable female character. John Grisham has written many legal thrillers with unlikeable male attorneys who have similar thoughts about the law not necessarily being binding, so to speak, on their behavior. In the spirit of full disclosure, I don’t like those books either. My dad, however, loves John Grisham though, so he’s likely going to enjoy these books just as much, if not more than he did the Rachel Knight series. So, while these books are not my favorites, I definitely think there’s an audience for them and that those people should definitely read these. If you like John Grisham, you should mostly likely enjoy Marcia Clark. Both are former attorneys turned authors of legal thrillers and former attorneys turned authors are some of my favorites. For example, Courtney Milan is one of my favorite romance authors and she clerked for two SCOTUS justices. TWO SCOTUS JUSTICES. My hero, honestly.
I’m getting side-tracked. The point of this review is to tell you my thoughts. So… The good. It is a very fast paced and well-written legal thriller.
And now for the things that jolted me out of the story every so often and knocked my enjoyment down to a three star read (which might be generous, if we’re being honest).
In large thematic things, I found it really troubling how often fat-shaming language appears in this novel. For example, “I saw a short man whose body looked like a stack of circles waddle over to his table.” And another example, “I noticed he’d put on a little weight in the short time since I’d last seen him. The buttons on his shirt strained a little harder around the belly, and his jowls seemed to hang a little lower. Apparently being a massy murderer and [spoiler] could weigh on a person.” The way that she talks about this person is always a description of his weight and then something about strongly disliking him, which winds up feeling like fat = bad person. This is a small plot point so it’s not too relevant, but it bothered me enough that I took the time to write notes about it.
Additionally, “the trannie” was used once, which is a slur, in case you were unaware.
But arguably, the thing that made the most angry appeared on page 316 when Alex says, “But I just don’t know how you get past the fact that you can’t talk to them. Speaking strictly for teenage girls, they’re all idiots.” And Sam thinks to herself, “That pretty much fit my memory of them. Then against, I’d never dated anyone less than twenty years old–even when I was fourteen. ‘Well, in the name of full disclosure, teenage girls aren’t exactly material for the Algonquin Round Table, either.’”
There are many things that annoy me in the world, but I’m honestly not sure that there’s anything more annoying to me than people intentional underestimating teen girls. Or really just teenagers in general. Stop doing that. JUST STOP.
Finally, it’s like Sam doesn’t care about professional responsibility and there’s nothing more frustrating to me than fictional lawyers who are so careless with their professional license. I’ve worked too hard to earn mine for them to go around giving us all a bad name, thank you.
So, overall, my feelings on this book can be summed up with this:
It really wasn’t the best book to read before the bar exam if we’re being honest. Let me know your thoughts if you’ve read this book! Or a legal thriller you love.