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VINE VOICEon February 21, 2012
What would happen to the legal system if suddenly every defendant demanded a trial by jury? With over 90% of cases settled by plea bargain agreements, if defendants were no longer willing to work out a deal, it would literally bring the legal system to a halt. This is the scenario Randy Singer presents in his latest legal thriller, The Last Plea Bargain.

Every judge and defense attorney that works in the Milton County Judicial system knows Jamie Brock (from False Witness) does not make plea bargains. She works hard to ensure her cases go to trial. A strong victim advocate, she excels at her job, but recently her personal life has taken a downward turn. Her father is in a vegetative state and Antoine Marshall, the man who murdered her mother twelve years ago, is scheduled to be executed soon. Adding to her stress is the alluring possibility of convicting Caleb Tate (the man who represented Antoine) of murdering his wife Rikki. However, with little evidence against Caleb and the possibility of corruption within the investigation, the prospect of a conviction is uncertain. With abundant twists and turns, The Last Plea Bargain is a riveting legal drama from one of the best authors in genre.

I have been anxiously waiting for this book for the last 18 months. I first heard about it during our interview with Randy for his last book, Fatal Convictions. The consequences of criminals bogging down the justice system by refusing to plea bargain sounded like an excellent premise for a novel. As it turns out, this aspect is a relatively minor, though integral portion of a much larger story, which sets the stage for a chain of events that make this book an intense, masterful legal thriller.

The Last Plea Bargain has several plots and within each plot are several smaller plots that make for a fantastic multi-layered novel. Jamie is struggling through a variety of emotional issues ranging from her father's condition to the bitterness and anger she feels towards Antoine and Caleb. Her open hostility does a nice job of keeping the reader off balance and preventing them from conclusively determining Caleb's guilt. Additionally, Jamie is working through issues related to her father's reputation and questions concerning Antoine's conviction. Jamie's boss, Bill Masterson, is running for Attorney General of Georgia and his campaign and politics continue to hamper the case's progress. Also lurking in the background is the struggle by Antoine's new lawyer, Mace James, to prevent his execution. All these storylines are related and I loved watching them all come together.

One of my favorite aspects of Singer's novels is his remarkable ability to integrate spiritual themes and difficult moral issues. In almost every book, I've been challenged by the different views that Singer presents. In most cases, he remains neutral, which allows for the reader to better evaluate their own preconceived ideas and perhaps gain a new perspective. In this book, I like that Singer challenged my die-hard, pro-death penalty stance. I didn't change my opinion, but I do see the points that were made in opposition to capital punishment. Additionally, I appreciate the straightforward reminders of justice and mercy. While never preachy, this book does an excellent job of presenting spiritual themes and pointing the reader to the ultimate Judge.

Sometimes I feel like a broken record, but I'll say it again anyway--for those who enjoy legal thrillers, Randy Singer is the author to check out. His novels are fun, insightful, complex, intelligent stories which are meticulously researched and developed. After impatiently waiting 18 months to read The Last Plea Bargain, I was not disappointed!

Review title provided courtesy of Tyndale
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on February 16, 2012
Jamie Brock has spent four years as an assistant DA and she's never cut a deal. Prosecuting criminals is about giving them what they deserve, not giving them a more lenient sentence just because they plead guilty. Jamie's in the minority, but that's her conviction, and so she takes on the extra work that comes with the extra trials and prosecutions.

But she soon finds herself at a crossroads. A well-known defense attorney has been accused of murdering his supermodel wife and Jamie's handed the case. The attorney, Caleb Tate, just so happens to be the man who defended her mother's killer several years before--a killer currently on death row and about to be executed.

As Brock dives into the case headlong, the DA's office soon finds itself in trouble. To logjam the system, Tate has convinced the prisoners to reject plea bargains and take all cases to trial. The result as sheer cacophony as prosecutors find themselves overwhelmed with the 90% of cases that would have been plea bargained. Felons start walking free based on technicalities. The entire justice system grinds to a halt and the prosecution has much less time to work on prosecuting Caleb Tate.

Randy Singer's legal knowledge and writing expertise shines in The Last Plea Bargain, a concoction of courtroom drama and investigative thriller that mixes in pertinent ethical issues and several unexpected twists. And the result is absolutely brilliant. Brock, who we first met during her law school days in False Witness, is a strong protagonist whose character development isn't sacrificed to the legal themes. It's her convictions that keep her from plea bargaining, yet it's the lack of plea bargaining that might set a killer free; it's her mother's killer that's facing the death penalty, yet thanks to the killer's appeals lawyer she's now questioning if that's justice. The novel's themes aren't just abstract ponderings of law and ethics, but actually mean something to Jamie, and so in turn mean more to us readers.

The subplot involving appeals lawyer Mace James and his insistence that Jamie's mother's killer is innocent is in itself fascinating and makes for some excellent questions. What should Christians think about the death penalty? Should we execute someone who has reformed? How do we know they've truly reformed? What if they're actually innocent?

The issue of plea bargaining also raises interesting legal and ethical questions. Jamie is opposed to bargaining on her principles of justice, yet it seems that plea bargaining is essential to the justice system in order to get things done, because there's simply not the resources to take every crime to trial. There's simply too much crime. Is it ethical to cut deals? Is it beneficial? Singer takes on a debated topic within legal circles (see the Supreme Court case Brady v. United States) and puts it in a context that not only makes itself accessible to average person (itself quite the feat) but also turns it into a pivotal point in a thrilling story.

Randy Singer writes legal thrillers like his protagonists practice law: with razor-sharp wit, a healthy dose of suspense, a dash of danger, and no fear of tackling difficult cases. The Last Plea Bargain is more of the same from Singer without being the same-old, same-old. Compelling, captivating, and sometimes controversial, Singer's my go-to author for legal thrillers.
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on May 14, 2012
I have to say that I enjoyed reading Randy Singer's latest novel. Well developed characters, good plot, interesting story. Mr. Singer's books may not be as popular in the mainstream as those like Grisham, Baldacci, etc. but in my opinion the quality is just as good.
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VINE VOICEon June 18, 2012
Randy Singer has consistently proven to be one of the best legal thriller writers in the market today. His books have always been full of great characters and twists, and had plots that would rival John Grisham in their legal complexity. Unfortunately, THE LAST PLEA BARGAIN failed to grab my interest. Singer has the plot going in several directions, and none of the story lines feel like the main plot of the novel, This is a book filled with subplots. No storyline stands out and lets the reader grab on. Only at the end do all of the story lines fall in line and mesh, but by then, it was too late.

Many years ago, Antoine Marshall was convicted of murdering Jamie Brock's mother. Marshall gets a last minute stay, and as a prosecuter, Jamie is furious. Caleb Tate, a famous defense attorney who defended Antoine Marshall, is accused of murdering his reformed show girl wife. Mason James, a lawyer with a felony record, will do anything to prove Marshall's innocence. Tate claims he has evidence that Jamie's father was a crooked lawyer.

Is this novel about Jamie trying to prove Tate killed his wife? Is it about Mason James saving Antoine Marshall from the electric chair? Is it about Jamie Brock finding out who really killed her mom? As I approached the end, I didn't know. Singer also throws in another subplot about the prisoners in Atlanta jails collaborating to put a halt to the court system, and this plot line deserved more than second teir status. As a reader, I was thinking that it was either outlandish and unrealistic, or incredibly unique and deserving of more from Singer.

This was my least favorite Singer novel, and I'm struggling to pinpoint why. I guess its just that for the first two thirds of the book, I really don't know what I, as a reader, should be rooting for. All the plot elements are there, but Singer doesn't combine them into a compelling story. There is almost too much going on. John Grisham wrote an entire novel about a man on death row and the race to save him. In this book, it is just one of many plot threads.

As I sat down to write this review, I saw the overwhelming amount of five star reviews. While I don't doubt I may be a little off in my review, I know this isn't the BEST legal thriller ever written, as the reviews indicate. This is a good novel, but it just has flaws. The plot isn't too complex, it just never really gets going. It isn't a spoiler to reveal that the case against Caleb Tate begins in earnest about 80% into the novel. By then, it was too late to grab my interest.
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on December 30, 2014
Randy Singer is a master storyteller. If he wrote for a secular publishing company, he would be wildly-popular with the same reputation as John Grisham. But I am thankful he writes Christian fiction as I can always depend on his books to be centered around a Christian worldview. His character development is outstanding and even though I would not call myself a legal thriller buff, I am drawn into his stories from page 1. I also like how he tackles difficult issues with his even-handed approach to both sides of the issue without sounding preachy. In this particular story, the reader is acutely aware of the struggles experienced by the story's main character, Jamie. She is a tough prosecutor who views life in black and white. By the end of the book the readers sees her morph into a character who accepts that life cannot always be approached with black and white solutions. Excellent read and highly recommended.
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on March 8, 2016
I loved this intense legal thriller. Never knew what was going to happen next. Lots of twists and turns and pleasantly surprised I could not predict the ending. Great characters and plot. Couldn't put it down. So good I'm jumping right into "Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales"!
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on April 3, 2013
You will plow through a lot of legal jargon in this one, but it is all laid out for you if you know nothing about the process, and I enjoyed learning, thanks to an expert writer. I found the long ending detached, reading like a report and a lengthy explanation rather than part of the story. Excellently portrayed characters, fast-paced plot.
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on May 4, 2013
This was a really enjoyable, smooth read, with no formatting errors or typos. If there is one negative about it, it would be that it was too stuffed with plots. I believe the one in which the criminals set up a no plea deals situation, led by Tate, was not needed, nor was the confusing and time consuming business about Jamie Brock's father's stellar reputation at risk because of another ploy by Tate.

Jamie nearly fits the description of a person who has ice water in her veins, but her dog, Justice, and her affection for the animal nullify that label. Her budding feelings for LA, then for Mace, also negate the icy demeanor, but I felt the story would have been better if the attempts at a love interest had been left out. It seemed they were incorporated simply because a reader or two might have been expecting them, not because it was something the author truly believed in.

Courtroom drama is one of my favorite genres, and even though I don't truly know what goes on inside one, I thought the courtroom scenes were great. Through my time reading detective and legal thriller pieces, I have always become disenchanted with the story climax, as the really unbeliveable material pops up there, and that held true in this story. But it doesn't bother me so long as there is an enjoyable read getting there. If I didn't have that kind of outlook, I wouldn't read these kind of stories, which would be unfortunate, as some of the best writing ever rests in the build up in these tales.

I recommend this book, and I will gladly read more of Singer's work.
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on January 11, 2014
Now this was one surprise thriller for me. The first two chapters read a little dull but beyond that, it picks up.

Jamie Brock is the sure fire prosecutor who believe in the sanctity of the law and who's grappling w/ the loss of her father shortly after the murder of her mother. She's determined to bring the person she deems as the killer, to book.

Caleb Tate is a savvy and sleazy defense lawyer, who's being fingered for the murder of his wife, Rikki Tate. He works to defend himself of the charges, but things get a little out of hand and he decides to break the law.

Ben Masterson is the chief prosecutor, the Wyatt Earp, if you will. He's the leader of the good guys, until a twist you cannot anticipate pulls it all under his feet.

Quite the entertaining piece. If you love legal thrillers, police procedural reads and the most unexpected of twists to the ending of a book, then read on.
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on June 21, 2013
When you read a lot of books, you learn that even many good books can become predictable. This book is not one of them. Frequently throughout The Last Plea Bargain, I thought I had certain elements "figured out." I was pleasantly disappointed almost every time. As Mr. Singer unravelled the threads of his plot, he surprised me again and again - all the way to the end. That is only one of the strengths of this extremely good work. It not only has a relentlessly good plot, it has an amazing variety of "flesh and blood" characters. I will be truly disappointed if I do not meet these characters on another case. Finally, this is a work that advances at the speed of life. Nothing feels rushed or over-dramatized. This is a story in which the action feels natural. There are scenes in which the action leaves you breathless, and others in which the suspense has you holding your breath. In between is a story that is a pleasure to read.

This is the second book of read by Mr. Singer. I am looking forward to reading all he has written.
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