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The Legal Limit (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – June 2, 2009

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The Legal Limit (Vintage Contemporaries) + Plain Heathen Mischief + The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living: A Novel
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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307388662
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307388667
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,095,017 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Bookmarks Magazine

In this crime/legal thriller, Clark explores the boundaries between law and justice, sin and forgiveness, fraternal bonds and betrayal. Mason stands at the center of an ethical dilemma, but he is no less compelling than his brother, their mother, and even Mason's partner. Clark "draws characters as well as Scott Turow and crafts plots as well as John Grisham," notes the Oregonian, but reviewers agreed that Clark's background has given him superior understanding of legal intricacies. Humor, sharp, regional dialogue, and impeccable plotting make for an unstoppable narrative. Only the Los Angeles Times faulted Clark for sinking "into that soft-focus therapeutic argot that now passes for American moralizing." In the end, however, The Legal Limit compellingly shows that "doing justice does not always flow from a rigid application of the law" (Chicago Sun-Times).
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"An engrossingly realized novel.... Elmore Leonard meets John Grisham, but smart and procedurally realistic with lots of crackling… dialogue and a plot wound as tightly as a watch." —Los Angeles Times “A model of how to write a literary legal thriller with a wry sense of humor. This is probably the best courthouse story I've ever heard or read.” —Mark Lindquist, The Oregonian“Deep yet playful. . . . A novel of ample graces.” —Allison Glock, The New York Times Book Review“Compelling…. High octane…. Skillfully weaving a plot that includes lie detectors, wiretaps and arcane legal principles, the author creates a world in which family ties can easily turn into nooses.” —Stephen Amidon, The Washington Post“Masterful.... A story of life and death, crime and punishment, sin and redemption, and the chasm that sometimes opens up between the law and justice.” —Chicago Sun-Times“An edge-of-your-seat legal thriller.... Take it to the beach and turn its pages breathlessly. Then mull over its deeper themes on that long ride home.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch"Funny, smart and Southern to the bone...[The Legal Limit] packs a's so intoxicating that it doesn't just dazzle Clark's reviewers, it inspires them." —J. Peder Zane, The News & Observer"[The Legal Limit] is filled to the brim with creamy, substantive, compelling prose...the manner in which the intricacies of the law, truth, justice and friendship [are] handled is masterful...This is writing at its best." —Barbara Rich, The Daily Progress"With The Legal Limit, Clark has outdone himself again. His novels just keep getting better...He's got the right gifts to draw the raw materials from real life and spin them into well-plotted, beautifully phrased, imaginative works of fiction...Martin Clark is the new standard by which other works of legal fiction should be judged." —Linda Brinson, Winston-Salem Journal"Clark conveys the joys of small-town life with an eye for detail and the beauty of worn, familiar things." —Salem Macknee, The Charlotte Observer“Clark’s wise, knowing novel [is] a superb thriller that ponders family, fraternal loyalty, marital love, child rearing, loss, integrity, tolerance, the fault line between law and justice, and even the economic well-being of a community.” —Booklist, starred review“A masterful mix of legal arcana and white-knuckle suspense.” —Kirkus, starred review“Profound and moving…[Clark’s] most substantial and thought-provoking work to date.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

The writing is crisp, inventive and compelling.
John R. Linnell
Martin Clark's third novel is another gerat read as were his first two.
D. L. Chapman
The plot keeps the reader engaged as it continues throughout the book.
Sarah Miller

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
(4.5 stars) In this absorbing fictionalization of a real murder case from 1984, author Martin Clark, a Virginia circuit court judge, explores the increasingly fraught predicament of Mason Hunt, who, as a naïve young man makes a decision that he must live with for the next twenty years. The product of a terrible home life, Mason has been protected from his sadistic father, during his teen years, by his older brother Gates. Mason eventually escapes the family to attend college and law school, while his brother Gates, at home, grows into a man so filled with rage and so damaged that he believes the world owes him for the abuse he has suffered.

At the outset of the novel, Mason, a young law student, accompanies Gates to a party, where Gates, drunk and high on drugs, becomes involved in an altercation over his girlfriend and shoots and kills Wayne Thompson, her would-be suitor. There are no witnesses--except Mason, who moves instinctively to protect his older brother, crafting an alibi for himself and Gates, and then acting as if nothing has happened. The case remains unsolved, and the two go on with their lives, albeit in different directions. The Thompson case reopens dramatically, however, when Mason eventually becomes a Virginia Commonwealth's attorney, and Gates is in prison on another matter.

Clark tells such a lively can't-put-it-downer that many readers will read well into the wee hours. His characters, often quirky, leap off the page in their realism and the reader identifies with them and their problems, even while recognizing they may deserve the disasters that are obviously awaiting them.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Angela Wright on August 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The difference between "The Legal Limit" and other books about lawyers/court cases is that in "The Legal Limit" the reader gets an in-depth honest look at the complicated issues lawyers and judges face in their jobs and in their personal lives. This is true of "The Legal Limit" in part because it is based on a true event, Clark uses many real people in his book, and he is himself a judge.

However, this is more than a book about a crime in a specific locale. "The Legal Limit" is a fast-paced, riveting story that could be set anywhere. It's a story about relationships (about which Clark writes so well) as well as difficult situations where the law must be followed but sometimes is unjust.

I read this book in a day. When I finished, I was impressed by Clark's skill as a writer. His previous books (The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living and Plain Heathen Mischief) are excellent, but it's clear Clark's heart is in "The Legal Limit." He must be a compassionate judge, which is good for anyone who comes into his court, but after reading this book, I think readers hope he will give up his full-time job for writing.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. Ward on August 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book will grab you from the first chapter, suck you in and not let go until you finish it! It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and has more twists and turns than Squirrel Spur Road where they say if you look back quick enough, you can see your own tail lights!

Having grown up in Patrick County, I can relate to the action as it takes place, but the story could apply to any small town in the US. A fast-paced and adroit novel about the legal system and our own human failings, it will keep you reading long into the night. I couldn't put it down until I finished it! I have read all of Martin's novels and this is his best yet! Highly recommended.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Author Martin Clark, a Virginia circuit judge, has written that while he has an interest in both the law and writing he had decided not to mix the two for a variety of valid reasons. His decision changed in 2003 when he was told a story, which he verified. We're in his debt for changing his mind as The Legal Limit is one of the most absorbing, though provoking tales to come along in many moons. Clark quickly notes that this is not a literal diary but as he puts it "there are plenty of facts in these pages , but I've definitely retooled them to serve the story I wanted to tell."

"Retooled" is the author's word, it would not be mine to describe this remarkable work. Clark's writing is precise, distinct, assured, painterly, if you will, as he describes a person or the small town of Stuart, Virginia. His skillful technique never overshadows his sensitivity to human foibles, and his plotting is so adroitly constructed that one is compelled to keep reading yet doesn't want the book to end.

The Legal Limit's story is both as old as the Bible and as fresh as tomorrow. It is a tale of two brothers - Mason and Gates Hunt. Visiting home during his last year in law school, Mason is relaxed and happy. He's glad to be enjoying his mother's cooking and enjoying his older brother's company, even though Gates keeps cocaine in a Crown royal bag under the seat of his car and guzzles "SunDrop and vodka without any ice to dilute the potency."

Most would probably see Gates as an intemperate jobless ne'er-do-well who still lives with his mother. But Mason sees him quite differently as he is the stronger older brother who protected him from the abuse of their father.
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