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Alafair Burke is the bestselling author of six novels, including 212, Angel’s Tip, and Dead Connection in the Ellie Hatcher series. A former prosecutor, she now teaches criminal Law and lives in Manhattan. Long Gone, her first stand-alone thriller, will be published by Harper in June 2011.
Not too many years ago, an influential friend in the literary world told me, “Legal thrillers are out.” Having just published my first two novels, both featuring Portland Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid, I desperately needed this death announcement to be premature. The problem, I argued, was an overabundance of bad legal thrillers that had scarred the subgenre’s once-good name. Perhaps trying to replicate the success of groundbreaking novels like Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent and John Grisham's A Time to Kill, publishers had overpurchased and overpromoted courtroom-centric novels by lawyers who managed to turn the term “legal thriller” into an oxymoron. Evidentiary objections, jury selection, and cross-examinations might be real goose bump inducers compared to the average lawyer’s workday, but as ingredients for a page-turner? No, thank you.
Well, I’m delighted to report that, despite my friend’s death knell, law-based crime fiction is alive and well thanks to authors who focus not on blue-in-the-face litigators hollering “Objection!” at one another, but on good old fashioned storytelling about characters who just happen to be lawyers. When the industry had all but written off the so-called “legal thriller” in favor of high concept novels in the spirit of The Da Vinci Code, Linda Fairstein and Lisa Scottoline continued to dominate bestsellers’ lists because they wrote damn good books. Today, Michael Connelly has put to rest any lingering questions about the viability of the subgenre by bringing Mickey Haller to every medium -- #1 in hardback and digital, and $46 million and counting at the box office. What makes these books irresistible aren’t the bells and whistles of the technical ins and outs of the legal system, but memorable characters and solid plotting in the hands of masterful storytellers.
With Guilt By Association, Marcia Clark joins the ranks of Scottoline, Fairstein, and Connelly. Her debut novel introduces us to Los Angeles prosecutor Rachel Knight, a member of the office’s elite Special Trials Unit. In the opening pages, Knight’s friend and colleague Jake Pahlmeyer is found dead at a seedy motel under even seedier circumstances. She inherits a high-profile rape case from his desk. While the victim’s father exerts political pressure for an arrest, the investigation takes Rachel into LA’s gang world and makes her a target. As if that weren’t enough to keep a gal busy, she can’t help poking around into Jake’s death, despite strict orders to mind her own bees’ wax.
Like the finest books in the legal thriller subgenre, very few pages of Guilt By Association take place in the courtroom. Instead, we see Rachel’s interactions with cops, contacts, and witnesses. We see the action as it unfolds, not as it is summarized later in the artificially sterile courtroom setting. We see Rachel at home with her friends. We get to know--and like--her.
Much attention will certainly be paid to Clark’s former career as a prosecutor in Los Angeles, most notably as the head prosecutor in OJ Simpson’s criminal trial. That platform will also undoubtedly bring extraordinary attention to a debut novel. But an unfortunate consequence of any emphasis upon her significant legal career might be an inaccurate perception of the book itself. Clark’s expertise about the criminal justice system leaps from the pages of Guilt By Association, but not because she shows off her knowledge of the law, rules of evidence, or courtroom procedure. Rather, her experience allows her to write with confidence rarely seen in a first novel--about Los Angeles, about Rachel Knight, about the secondary characters who occupy Knight’s world and become a part of ours. Guilt By Association succeeds because of Clark’s gifts as a writer, not as a lawyer. With those gifts, she has created a true legal thriller--emphasis on the thrill.
This was a gripping story, well told. I keep thinking the word "surprisingly"- I suppose that I was expecting just serviceable and ordinary, and I was happy to be proven... Read morePublished 21 hours ago by seedlady
Marcia Clark is a former LA, CA District Attorney. She was a lead prosecutor in the O J Simpson murder case. How could I possibly turn down an opportunity to read her debut novel. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Sherry Fundin
First in the Rachel Knight series Ms. Clark does a great job of introducing her main character with all her flaws and foibles. Read morePublished 13 days ago by joyful27
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It appeared to be an easy transition from trial lawyerd to author for Ms. Clark. Her style was easy to read and I enjoyed her humor as well. Read morePublished 13 days ago by marilyn hodges
I was gifted a copy of “Guilt by Association” via NetGalley. That in no way affects my opinion or this review in any way. Read morePublished 29 days ago by Ann M Wilson
Thank you to Netgalley and Mulholland books for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for review. Read more
This is the second book in the series that I have read although I have not read them in order. I liked the book as I find the lead character, Rachel Knight and her various friends... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Fuzzy's Mom
Guilt by Association by Marcia Clark is a 2011 Mulholland Books Publication. I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review by the publisher and... Read morePublished 1 month ago by gpangel