on August 20, 2008
I have no idea why this book is only available from the UK. This is the author's third book. Both of the previous novels were first rate legal thrillers and this one continues the tradition. The book jacket compares Giminez to John Grisham. In my opinion, he is better.
All of his novels are set in Texas, a place he knows and understands. This one takes place largely in Fredricksville as a former local football hero returns to his roots after an absense of twenty-four years. He left to go to Notre Dame and play as quaterback on their football team. Then on to law school, a large Chicago law firm where he was a star trial lawyer. He also left bitter and angry at his father following his mother's death. He returns with his two children following the death of his wife from cancer. Her death has left a large hole in his life and the lives of his children which he is trying desperately to fill.
The novel is full of interesting and well drawn characters and the reader is quickly drawn into the story which is masterfully told by a novelist who uses dialogue with the same skill that Van Cliburn handled a piano.
If you have previously discovered this author, he remains as good as you remember. If you have not, you have a wonderful treat in store. In fact, you have three.
"If you beg for it they will mail". Well that's not the exact quote but that doesn't make it less true. Trying to find this book here in the US has been nothing short of frustrating! Why, with the success of Mark's first two books, didn't the publishers didn't pick up his next one? Who knows, I just know that the US publishers are a bunch of [...] for not publishing this book. I wrote Mark about the pain I was feeling and he actually sent me `The Perk' and `The Common Lawyer'. WOW!
I like Mark's books for a number of reasons, the least of which is his ability to bring you in and make you want to be a part of the story. I felt it with `The Common Lawyer' and I really felt it with `The Perk'. The emotions that Beck was feeling with the loss of his wife, the fear of raising his kids, the uncertainty of coming back home, and the gulf between him and his father is a very moving sub-plot to this book. For me, it did start off a bit slow, and that was a bit unusual for one of Mark's books. Thankfully slow doesn't mean boring, and once this book's engine warmed up it purred like a vintage Mustang.
Beck is a football celebrity in this small Texas town (Fredericksburg) but it's a town that he could not wait to get out of after high school. He vowed never to come back... ever... but life has a way of laughing at our arrogance in thinking that we can actually control it. He comes back to town and sees the effects of time and progress. While this community has kept its "small town mentality" it has also tried to accept the modern growth that comes with time. The dynamics are pretty funny if you think about it. An American town, controlled by old-school Germans, dealing with illegal Mexicans, all while trying to keep the Texas honored cult that is high school football.
All of this is woven together in a book that is pretty hard to put down once you start. My synopsis in a hundred words or less: Beck Hardin, a football legend, comes back to town with his two kids after the death of his wife. He slowly starts to reconcile with his father who he hasn't spoken to in almost twenty four years. Oh yeah, he's a lawyer. The old Judge who pretty much hates illegal immigrants (Mexicans in this case) has just quit the bench. Most everyone wants Beck to run and has already started his campaign without him knowing it. His best friend back in high school has asked him to investigate the murder of his daughter. A sixteen year old sexual starlet who will do whatever and WHOever it takes to make it to Hollywood.
This best friend is also the high school football coach who has more barley in his blood than plasma. He's also the coach of an extremely talented yet arrogantly privileged quarterback names Slade. With him they have a chance to win the State Championship, the first time since Beck. Unfortunately Slade has issues and demons that might derail that plan. Beck is put in the middle of a fight between the Mexicans and the Germans and the outcome could make or break this little town.
This review, of course, doesn't even come close to the drama, heartache, grief, and small victories that Mark touches upon in this novel. Unfortunately, unless the American publishers pull their head out of their [...], people will miss this very, very, very good book.
on November 26, 2012
Being an avid mystery reader and after seeing all the rave reviews for this book, I was hoping to find another "go to" author in Mark Gimenez. I'm afraid that I did not. Briefly, the primary reason for this is that just about everything and everyone in this book is some form of a stereotype...the plot dynamics and, particularly, the characters (the grieving husband, the number one high-school football recruit in the country, the evil/devious local businessman, the heartless/pompous Hollywood star and the heightened animosity between the local whites, mostly German Americans, no less, and the "shadow" Mexican/Latino population). It all became too much for me. It's too bad as I liked the way Gimenez writes, including some interesting plot twists and pretty well thought out legal gymnastics. Nevertheless, the constant character hyperbole diminished the book as a whole. Tone it down a little, Mark. Tone it down.
on August 3, 2014
I really wanted to like this book. With the Texas setting and comparison to John Grisham, it seemed like a "can't miss". WRONG!!! Unfortunately, the only thing this author has in common with John Grisham is the ability to form sentences using words. I'm 42% into the book (really, really trying to give it a chance), and the only reference to any kind of legal case is the teaser at the beginning of the book with a few scattered references later on to give the impression that eventually this murder might be solved. Or not. But, really, who cares. This book is just one long rant about Texas politics and the mistreatment of Mexicans and illegal immigrants. Save your $1.97 and just listen to any of the Talking Heads on the numerous daily "news" programs.
on August 15, 2014
I quit reading after nine chapters. I was looking for a mystery not the political leanings of this guy. If you can't leave your political agenda out of your books at least have the decency to classify your books as political science.
on May 10, 2015
To be fair, I really enjoyed the legal storyline of this book since my background was in the court system. Having said that, I REALLY do NOT like books that try to shove a liberal agenda down my throat. I have lived long enough to know that there is always two sides to a problem. And that includes the immigration situation our country is in these days. It isn't as simple as portrayed in this book. I also had a problem with the actions of Beck after he became a Judge. I've worked with Judges most of my career and I KNOW what they can and cannot do, and Beck did many things Judges cannot do. If you like preachy liberal books, you'll like this one. Don't think I will read this author again.
on September 16, 2014
This is a preachy and rather shallow book full of stereotypical characters and propaganda. There are no shades of gray; there is no depth. While the author apparently has some knowledge of the locale, he paints it and its inhabitants like a Saturday morning cartoon. (No, I do not live in the Hill Country of Texas or have any connection to it.)
on October 24, 2013
I like Mark Gimenez' books--usually well thought-out good guy/bad guy plots and action. In my opinion the social-engineering preaching gets VERY tiring.
on August 17, 2014
This book opens with a Prologue about a glamorous high school cheerleader/groupie dying in the back of a movie star's limo of a cocaine overdose in Austin, Texas. Then the story jumps forward 4-and-a-half years to a high school football hero, Beck Hardin, returning to his hometown of Fredricksburg, Texas after a 24-year absence in which he went to Notre Dame, got a law degree, and practiced in Chicago. It turns out that the dead cheerleader was the daughter of his best friend and teammate in high school, so Beck promises to solve the cold case and catch the killer. Meanwhile, he is talked into running for judge, gets involved in small-town politics, and spends most of the book straightening out the current Fredricksburg high school QB, who is the best in the country.
This is my second book by Mark Gimenez, and frankly, I was a little disappointed. It is very slow-moving in the beginning. The author spends a lot of time setting up the characters and how the Germans founded Fredricksburg, and for most of the first 2/3 of the book, I wondered whether the Prologue was just a side story. Apparently, Texas has a five-year statute-of-limitations on statutory rape, and Beck only had 6 months to beat the deadline and solve the cold case. Steroid use by the HS football team seemed to consume most of the book while time was running out on solving the murder. Also a lot of time is devoted to the plight of illegal Mexican immigrants. One problem I had with the book was that the name of the killer was revealed in the Prologue, but he seems to have changed names by the end of the book without any explanation. I expect surprises in a good mystery, but I don't appreciate trickery, and I'm afraid that a fast one was pulled here.
I'm not giving up on Mr. Gimenez, but I thought "Accused" was a lot better.
on November 30, 2013
I am conflicted about this book and how to review it. I'm giving it an average rating but that does not really say much.
The book is pretty well written. Not perfect, not awful. The story moves along without bogging down at any point and it keeps your attention. But, as my wife put it so well, by the end of the book you feel you have just watched a Hallmark TV movie. The story is just so darned heartwarming and finishes with such a "happily ever after" flourish you forget the horrific beginning and basis for the main plot.
Gimenez is an attorney who doesn't like attorneys. Credits for that from this reviewer. Gimenez is no cheerleader for the legal system, certainly not fool enough to consider it a "justice" system. Little in the way of justice takes place throughout this novel.
I'm a bit put out by the level of arrogance, elitism and cluelessness displayed by the main characters in the story. The locale is the small Central Texas town of Fredericksburg. The town and that entire area of Texas was settled by Germans and the German culture and tradition remains proudly on display here. I'm very familiar with the city and Central Texas although I am not a resident. The main character and those in his close-knit group of friends and relatives as well as Gimenez himself in his narration present a classically ironic situation without realizing that irony. Fredericksburg and Gillespie County are portrayed as being clean, healthy, virtually crime-free and attractive enough to draw in newer residents who appreciate this atmosphere to live and build families. However, the newcomers and the non-German residents consistently revile the "old Germans" (here portrayed as villains throughout the book) who established the area and made it so attractive to begin with. The main character, on several occasions in the book, mentions the crime, noise and pollution of Chicago in such a way it seems he longs for those conditions there in Fredericksburg. The irony, of course, being that these people moved there because of the near ideal conditions created by those of German culture but once in residence the newcomers want to change it so it is like the places they fled, essentially allowing in just enough crime, noise and pollution to make their lives more interesting I guess. And, of course, it's okay to trash another culture as long as it's the one that's dominant--how dare those damn Germans try to hold onto their culture and traditions!
Texas has long had a sad tradition of discrimination against Mexicans (post "remember the Alamo") and this is also at play in the book. Is the portrayal afforded here accurate? By history at least, it probably has some basis in fact. The turkey processing plant portrayed here actually did exist in Fredericksburg, however, it burned in 1999 fire that started in a turkey fryer. The plant never reopened. I'm sure working conditions and pay were far from ideal there since poultry plant work--the slaughter and processing--is pretty dire labor under the best circumstances. Another irony, the workers at the plant had just won a new contract, numerous concessions to wages and work conditions and union representation from the plant's owners prior to the fire.
Gimenez gives a pretty concise overview of Texas culture and history but you have to wonder about the factual basis. As stated above, it's a pretty good story and it's not badly written. But some points just have to make you think the book could have been better with a little more research. Like, for instance, how is it someone who had not lived in Texas for over 24 years manages to get on the ballot for a judgeship without meeting the 12 month residency requirement? Oh well, it's fiction after all.