I’m on tour, in association with Rachel’s Random Resources, with a review of a great book by N. Lombardi Jr.
A beaten homeless vet. Three cops gunned down. A multi-state manhunt. The trial of the decade.
A new kind of legal thriller
When a homeless war veteran is beaten to death by the police, stormy protests ensue, engulfing a small New Jersey town. Soon after, three cops are gunned down.
A multi-state manhunt is underway for a cop killer on the loose. And Dr Tessa Thorpe, a veteran’s counselor, is caught up in the chase.
Donald Darfield, an African-American Iraqi war vet, war-time buddy of the beaten man, and one of Tessa’s patients, is holed up in a mountain cabin. Tessa, acting on instinct, sets off to find him, but the swarm of law enforcement officers gets there first, leading to Darfield’s dramatic capture.
Now, the only people separating him from the lethal needle of state justice are Tessa and ageing blind lawyer, Nathaniel Bodine. Can they untangle the web tightening around Darfield in time, when the press and the justice system are baying for revenge?
This is a very topical story, how we take care of returning soldiers; veterans, the men we send out to do our dirty work, is a vital part of how we are as a society.
And this book doesn’t shirk from showing how that can sometimes be, in all its uncomfortable detail.
Initially, it’s a straightforward tale, a homeless man is beaten by police and dies. The authorities try to cover it all up, then more violence ensues. Assumptions are made, the usual suspects are rounded up and a trial follows.
So far so predictable. Where this book scores is in the way the story is told, not from the point of view of the accused but as seen by a counsellor for the very people at the heart of things, the soldiers damaged in the service of their country. Dr Tessa Thorpe and her colleagues have a unique insight and are not always welcomed in the course of the investigation into the brutality of the police. And their thoughts on the psychology of those with PTSD are awkward to fit into the desired outcome, which is the conviction of someone for the crime that followed. Stereotypes are used, as they are in real life and the way the case develops is so lifelike that it makes us question just how close this is to fiction.
The cast are well assembled and all interesting, with pasts that enhance the story. I found real empathy with them, the writing drew me into the meat of the issues, so that I could see through the eyes of those involved. You can feel the sense of injustice, the anger at the system that sends people to do a governments dirty work; but doesn’t care when they come home broken.
The story itself and the way it plays out is plausible and well-paced, it follows in logical steps. The courtroom scenes are electric; right to the end, we have the possibility of the verdict going either way. The ending is satisfying, but with the way open for more from Dr Thorpe.
Which wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Four Stars from me.
N. Lombardi Jr, the N for Nicholas, has spent over half his life in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, working as a groundwater geologist. Nick can speak five languages: Swahili, Thai, Lao, Chinese, and Khmer (Cambodian).
In 1997, while visiting Lao People’s Democratic Republic, he witnessed the remnants of a secret war that had been waged for nine years, among which were children wounded from leftover cluster bombs. Driven by what he saw, he worked on The Plain of Jars for the next eight years.
Nick maintains a website with content that spans most aspects of the novel: The Secret War, Laotian culture, Buddhism etc. http://plainofjars.net
His second novel, Journey Towards a Falling Sun, is set in the wild frontier of northern Kenya.
His latest novel, Justice Gone was inspired by the fatal beating of a homeless man by police.
Nick now lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
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I can thoroughly recommend this book, it was so well put together that I have to admit that I read it far too quickly! I had to go back and read it again to fully savour the story.
I’ll be back with another great author on Thursday, in a new Indie Showcase. See you then.
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