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Actual Innocence Hardcover – October 19, 1999


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Despite its sleepy appearance, the tiny hamlet of El Nido, Calif., harbors terrible secrets. As Siegel's second thriller featuring attorney Greg Monarch (after The Perfect Witness) begins, El Nido resident Sarah Trant has been sitting on death row for five years, convicted by a jury of townsfolk on the basis of very shaky evidence. Monarch, who lives in the nearby town of La Graciosa and was formerly Trant's lover, agrees to handle her appeal, though he knows Trant has a history of mental instability. Upon arriving in El Nido, he gets a frosty reception. The district attorney won't help with even the most basic information, the sheriff is downright hostile and Trant's former attorney refuses to take his calls. Monarch pushes on, eventually discovering aspects of the case that were covered up the first time around. These include the fact that the testimony clinching Trant's convictionAa dying declaration from the victim identifying Trant as the killerAis patently false; the dying man's throat was cut all the way to the spine. Monarch figures the key to the case is the victim, Brewster Tomaz, an elderly geologist who had been working for an oil company that wanted to build a huge health spa on its now dry fields. Trant, who vehemently opposed the health spa plan, had clashed with Tomaz several times in the past, but so had many others, including people with knowledge of one of El Nido's even bigger secrets. Though some of the plot turns are predictable, Siegel beautifully captures the flavor of scandal in a small communityAthe knowing looks, the awkward silences, the amateur attempts at coverup. The novel ends, appropriately, not with big-city drama, but with a quiet, small-town America nod-nod-wink-wink deal. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

California attorney Greg Monarch is back (after The Perfect Witness), and this time out he's helping old girlfriend Sarah Trant in her last-ditch efforts to avoid execution. Sarah is claiming "actual innocence" as her final defense, saying that she was framed for the murder of old Brewster Tomaz, that she didn't cut his throat and leave him dead in El Nido Creek. Greg's investigation turns up not only flagrant trial misconduct by the prosecution but also a dark tangle of lies and twisted relationships that have pushed the citizens of seemingly peaceful El Nido Valley into a conspiracy of silence. And when Sarah's original defense lawyer suddenly dies of a mysterious illness, Greg begins to realize just how dangerous his investigation is. Crime reporter Siegel has again crafted a thriller filled with a wealth of legal detail and realistic characters that will appeal to Phillip Margolin fans. Highly recommended.ARebecca House Stankowski, Purdue Univ. Lib., Hammond, IN
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1st edition (October 19, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345413091
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345413093
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 1 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,652,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Great plot, fully realized characters, butter-smooth writing.
Joseph L Burke
The only other thing I'd like to comment about with regards to this book is that the surnames of most of the main characters seem a little...off...or truncated.
E. S. Charpentier
I just hope that no one is caught in "actual innocence" of reading a bad book.
"wranglerdenim"

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 5, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Even when Central California Federal Judge Daniel Solman asks for his help, attorney Greg Monarch says no even though this is the woman's last appeal. Five years ago, a local jury convicted the death row inmate of killing an elderly geologist. Six months from now she will visit the chair. As he reads her petition, an angry Greg knows he must dive into another death row case because the convict is his former lover, the tumultuous Sarah Trant.
Greg begins to attain background information, but finds roadblock after roadblock. Sarah's attorney refuses to cooperate. The sheriff and the District Attorney reject Greg's inquiries. However, Greg immediately sees a fatal flaw in the prosecution's case. The victim's alleged final words accuse Sarah of murdering him, but his gutted throat made it impossible to speak. As Greg digs deeper, he realizes that other individuals had stronger motives to kill the victim, However, with official inertia slowing him down Greg wonders if he has enough time to prove his client's innocence.
ACTUAL INNOCENCE is an intriguing legal thriller that centers on a small town's conspiracy to hide a scandal. Though it's obvious what is going on, the story line is well written and provides insight into the bumbling efforts of the leading town officials to hide their ignominy.

Harriet Klausner
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By "wranglerdenim" on April 21, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This being the second book of Barry Siegel that I have read in my time as a reader I had an idea of what to expect. Even thought The Perfect Witness was not my favorite book of all-time I figured what the heck, I'll give `ol Mr. Siegel another shot to win over my high credential likings. Siegel did a decent job with Actual Innocence but did not top the charts with this one in my eyes.
As in The Perfect Witness, author Barry Siegel uses a lawyer as a main character. Once again this main character is Greg Monarch. Monarch plays a top notch lawyer in la Graciosa, California. After being named the county's top lawyer Monarch is asked to take a case which seems to already have a verdict, guilty. The case is for murder, the alleged murderer that Monarch is to defend is Sarah Trant. Prior to finding out who he would be defending, Monarch refused to take the case. The reason being that Trant had previously been found guilty five times. Eventually Monarch decides to meet and defend. He travels to the El Nido Valley, where Trant is being held, on his journey there he is involved in wreck and ends up at Diana Sanborn's residents. While spending time at the Sanborn residents he learns that there has been some key evidence left out of the trials. After the District Attorney and Trant's former attorney do not help Monarch goes on his own. He found that Brewster Tomaz, who was the man Trant was believed to have killed, was slashed from one side of his throat to the other and would not have been able to speak. Trant and Tomaz did not get along due to Tomaz's brainstorm of putting a health spa in El Nido However, a witness claims that Tomaz's last words were "Sarah Trant did this." Monarch pushes on to find the "real" truth as the El Nido locals work to cover themselves.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By "wranglerdenim" on April 21, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This being the second book of Barry Siegel that I have read in my time as a reader I had an idea of what to expect. Even thought The Perfect Witness was not my favorite book of all-time I figured what the heck, I'll give `ol Mr. Siegel another shot to win over my high credential likings. Siegel did a decent job with Actual Innocence but did not top the charts with this one in my eyes.
As in The Perfect Witness, author Barry Siegel uses a lawyer as a main character. Once again this main character is Greg Monarch. Monarch plays a top notch lawyer in la Graciosa, California. After being named the county's top lawyer Monarch is asked to take a case which seems to already have a verdict, guilty. The case is for murder, the alleged murderer that Monarch is to defend is Sarah Trant. Prior to finding out who he would be defending, Monarch refused to take the case. The reason being that Trant had previously been found guilty five times. Eventually Monarch decides to meet and defend. He travels to the El Nido Valley, where Trant is being held, on his journey there he is involved in wreck and ends up at Diana Sanborn's residents. While spending time at the Sanborn residents he learns that there has been some key evidence left out of the trials. After the District Attorney and Trant's former attorney do not help Monarch goes on his own. He found that Brewster Tomaz, who was the man Trant was believed to have killed, was slashed from one side of his throat to the other and would not have been able to speak. Trant and Tomaz did not get along due to Tomaz's brainstorm of putting a health spa in El Nido However, a witness claims that Tomaz's last words were "Sarah Trant did this." Monarch pushes on to find the "real" truth as the El Nido locals work to cover themselves.
Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Wilma Bookhound on June 24, 2002
Format: Audio Cassette
This book was quite ordinary. The audio done by Ed Asner was awful. His voice is so hoarse sounding that he is often barely understandable. His female voices were OK except for one or two that were too low in volume. Several of the male voices were so loud that I was constantly adjusting the volume.
I might possibly read another Siegal book, but I will never buy another audiobook with Asner as the narrator.
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