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on March 28, 2017
This book reminds me of what a writing teacher once told me, tongue in cheek. You have to write a first chapter that will grab the customer and get him to buy the book. After that, who cares about the rest of the book - you (the author, publisher) have the money! The first chapter of The Perk is strong - beautiful young Texas girl basically kidnapped, drugged and raped and left to die on side of road by sleaze ball movie star (picture Tom Cruise). So the story is going to be how the vicious crime is solved, right? Wrong. The rest of the book is a hatchet job on the white people of Fredericksburg, Texas, or at least on the descendants of the Germans who settled it, who are all racist and corrupt, and especially brutal to Mexicans. There's a subplot about a high school football hero jacked up on steroids who brutally beats a Mexican-American boy (who wants to be an astronaut or something at NASA). There's a frustrated romance between the protagonist and a hot, beautiful lesbian who moved from Austin to open a book store. The "hero" is an Atticus Finch type who grew up there but moved away and was a partner in a hotshot Chicago law firm. Moves back when his wife dies, and within six months is the district judge, although he doesn't even have a Texas law license. While judge, he personally investigates and basically prosecutes the case against the football star - nevermind that he would be disqualified from presiding over the case. There's a former judge now lawyer for the football hero that learned his negotiating skills from reading The Godfather - cheat, lie, steal and when that doesn't work, blackmail.
This book meanders all over the place and the original "mystery" - will the movie star ever get caught? - falls by the wayside. In real life Hispanics and Anglos here get along just fine.
And by the way - the real Gillespie County (where Fredericksburg is) has a female Mexican-American district attorney.
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on April 21, 2016
I wanted to rate this book higher than three stars. If I could, I'd give it 3.5 stars just because the writing was good and it seemed to be edited well. I like Gimenez's writing style - he's very detailed (sometimes too detailed in spots) and his character development was steady for the entire book. There were some spots that dragged a bit and some of the book could've been cut out.

A part of me has to wonder if the people of Fredricksburg, TX have read this book and how many of them are in an uproar about it. I'm a native Texan and the author is correct in portraying it turning into a very touristy place to go. But there is a big liberal agenda in this book with the old townspeople and their treatment of Mexican immigrants (most illegal), as well as the politics behind the flashy main street where people flock to do their shopping. I enjoyed Beck - he left Texas to pursue a life in Chicago and came back due to his wife's death. He realizes that he needs his dad's help and rekindles his relationship and becomes the judge in the small town, realizing that it's not as calm of a job as most would think. He wants to progress Fredricksburg and move it forward in time, but he gets mega pushback from the "Germans" who don't want change and are portrayed as extreme racists... Is this small town really like this behind the scenes? I'm not sure. I'm not from Fredricksburg, and I know every town has it's skeletons... but I have to wonder. Maybe that was the author's goal... getting you to think.

I also knocked down the rating to do a few inconsistencies - The author mentions the prison system a lot in Texas... The judge tells the people in his courtroom what unit they will be sent to and that doesn't happen... the judge has absolutely no say over that. TDCJ (Texas Department of Criminal Justice) decides where an inmate will go. (I work for TDCJ) Also, the judge tells a female in his courtroom that she will do time for perjury at the women's unit in Huntsville... there is not a female unit in Huntsville... Of course, these are just small issues but it pulled me from the story and posed a distraction.

This story does make you think. I do wonder about small town politics a lot, and maybe this is accurate. It's hard to say. I liked Beck and I liked the ending. I ranked it 3.5 for the issues stated above.
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on March 29, 2016
I had to put it down. Stated out well but the evil and ignorant white society and oppressed Latinos too much to swallow. Too bad,
I liked the family and was interested in how they would work things out.
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on January 26, 2017
Slice of Americana small town in Texas with social and race issues in the forefront. A beautiful teenager murdered, a meteoric football star plagued by steroids use amid an unscrupulous developer and an old guard German mafia fighting for town control. A newly widow, grieving lawyer estranged from his father and baffled about raising his kids is the protagonist of this drama. Reluctantly elected to town judge his decisions will affect a large undocumented Mexican population in unexpected ways as well as the lives of football fan townspeople . Another winner by Mr. Gimenez
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on November 9, 2016
A native Texan, I was lured in by the hill country location and thought Gimenez described Fredricksburg beautifully. I even called my mom in Texas (I'm in Orlando, and there are zero copies of any of his work in the libraries here), and she found a whole shelf at her local library. I am very curious about the publication being done in London when the novel was so clearly "Texan." I also found the opening scene (the murder) ghastly and felt that the lewd language was "over the top." In fact, it was hard to get past that opening scene because of the language, and then to follow the plot. I did read it in one sitting, though, and it got better. I tracked it down for a friend, though, and was ashamed to give it to her due to the language. Do people in London really like to read about Texas? The previous owner of my copy had written in "chapel" by the Alamo on the map, which I found funny since Texans usually think of the Alamo as the site of a brutal battle and are shocked to see how tiny it is upon visiting San Antonio.
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on September 25, 2016
This is the third Mark Gimenez book I have read, and only one of them ("The Accused") lives up to the author's billing as the next John Grisham. I don't necessarily disagree with his politics, rather, I think his political views occupied way too much of "The Perk" and detracted from what could have been a good story. The bad guys in the story were caricatures, not real people. Putting aside the logistics of how an outsider living in the community for only a few months is able to be elected a judge, if the book had concentrated on the three subplots (the death of Beck's wife and the effects on his family, the assault by the star athlete and the mystery surrounding Heidi's death) it would have rated five stars. The author writes well, but a third of the book was extraneous political opinion that overwhelmed the story and added nothing to the plot.
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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.)
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on August 4, 2017
Perhaps some of the bad guys are too bad, but the plot is very interesting. The main character and his children are realistically dealing with grief, and author uses an interesting device of developing the character of the deceased wife/mother through emails. I found the portrayal of the racial divide between the German-Americans to be quite disconcerting, and I can only hope that was merely a plot device I did find it confusing that the main character could suddenly move to Texas and immediately run for a judgeship. I'm a lawyer myself and could only assume bar admission was through reciprocity--or maybe this was explained and I didn't notice. I do highly recommend this book--the courtroom and criminal justice issues were intriguing.
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on November 15, 2016
This author, Mark Gimenez, is a great story teller. All his characters are wonderfully developed with a full range of likeable and not so likeable characteristics. The way he tells the story, you feel, as a reader, that you are right there with him. Here, Beck Hardin, a recent widower with 2 young children returns to his roots in a rural west Texas town from a big city (Chicago) high flying law firm. The plot is masterful and intriguing and very difficult to put down. Gimenez has that 'Grisham' like story-telling capability. You just have to read it!!
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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.
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