It's been a long time since I've read a legal thriller. After reading Corrupt Practices by Robert Rotstein, I have to say John Grisham has some competition.
Some legal thrillers can be very formulaic. You have a case and then you have to solve it before time runs out. Character depth is usually pretty weak. That isn't the case here. In this book, there is a complex case to be solve but there are so many layers to not just the case but the character themselves.
Parker Stern has a really bad case of stage fright. Following the suicide of his mentor, Harmon Cherry, Parker no longer has the confidence or the emotional fortitude to enter a courtroom. Instead, he spends his days at a local coffee shop owned by his former colleague and sometime lover Deanna Poulos. Life and the legal scene are passing him by, but a complex case and a formidable enemy will force Parker to face his fears.
Rich Baxter, another former colleague, is in desperate need of Parker's help. Rich is languishing in jail, charged with embezzling from The Church of the Sanctified Assembly. Parker hates the Assembly and everything they stand for. The church has ruined his childhood and his relationship with his mother. Even when his law partners took the Church on as a client, Parker refused to work or profit from any of their business. When Rich left the firm he took the Assembly's business with him. That was a relief for Parker. This church isn't your ordinary church, it borders on a cult. Your life isn't really your life anymore. You have to devote your time, money, energy, and your family to the Assembly. As far as Parker knew, Rich was a devoted member. What made him turn on his faith? Did he betray the Assembly? Or is the Assembly betraying him? According to Rich, he is being setup and the only person he can trust is Parker. Rich even believes that Harmon Cherry didn't commit suicide. Is this all a big conspiracy or the ramblings of a man facing a long prison sentence?
Before Parker can build a defense for his client, Rich allegedly commits suicide. I say allegedly because there's no point to the book without some doubt surrounding Rich's demise. His father is certain the Assembly will come after Rich's estate. Parker is in too deep now, he has to find out the truth. He enlists his class of law students to help him. Lovely Diamond, and yes that is the actual name of a character, one of Parker's students, works closely on the case. She even puts her career on the line for Parker. There is an interesting little side story there too, but you have to read the book to know what I'm talking about. The Assembly seems more like big brother than an actual religion. They have eyes and ears everywhere. They are determined to stop Parker, by legal and illegal means. With his safety in jeopardy, is this case really worth it?
What a thrilling debut by Robert Rotstein. I will definitely be reading the next Parker Stern adventure.
Note: I received a copy of the book from Wunderkind PR in exchange for an honest review.