Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Review of "Guilt by Degrees" [65}

Guilt by Degrees by Marcia Clark
Mulholland Books, ISBN 978-0316129534
May 8, 2012, 448 pages

"Someone has been watching D.A. Rachel Knight--someone who's Rachel's equal in brains, but with more malicious intentions. It began when a near-impossible case fell into Rachel's lap, the suspectless homicide of a homeless man. In the face of courthouse backbiting and a gauzy web of clues, Rachel is determined to deliver justice. She's got back-up: tough-as-nails Detective Bailey Keller. As Rachel and Bailey stir things up, they're shocked to uncover a connection with the vicious murder of an LAPD cop a year earlier. Something tells Rachel someone knows the truth, someone who'd kill to keep it secret.

Harrowing, smart, and riotously entertaining, GUILT BY DEGREES is a thrilling ride through the world of LA courts with the unforgettable Rachel Knight."

The book opens with the very memorable, quite attention grabbing murder of a respected LAPD officer in his own home and then moves on quickly to introduce us to D.A Rachel Knight, a member of L.A's elite Special Trials Unit...two things which would seem to have no connection. But as we quickly learn, appearances can be very deceiving.
When a fellow prosecutor seems to have botched a case, Rachel takes over the case of a nameless homeless man who was stabbed on the street and left to die as people stepped over him. But again, things are not quite as they seem and before she knows it, Rachel is in the middle of a quite complicated and layered investigation. Happily, she is one smart cookie, packing heat as they say, and with the able assistance of her friend and L.A. police detective Bailey Keller.
Because we all have secrets to hide and some are ready and willing to kill to protect theirs.

I can remember when Ms. Clark's first book, Guilt by Association, came out and I must say, I was a little conflicted about reading it. Yes, I imagine few people know the law enforcement world of LA better than Clark, famous for her prosecution in the OJ Simpson case. But just because someone is well known, and maybe can get a book contract, does not mean they can actually write and I feared that was the case here. Well, I never did read that first book, but when I received a copy of her second, Guilty by Degrees, through Library Thing's Early Reviewer program, I was happy to check it out.
And I will admit, my fears were totally unfounded.
Ms. Clark is a very good writer and this is a very good, very entertaining legal/police thriller.

The plot is clever and smart, full of suspense and moves along at a steady pace, a pace that will make it hard to put the book down. The dialogue is very well done, smart and often with a touch of humor. The characters, especially Rachel, are very good, very believable. But as we hope with a good character, she is far from perfect, with a few hidden secrets of her own than she will go to great lengths to protect, even ending a relationship with the man she loves when he gets a little too nosy about her past. So maybe that gives her a little more insight into our villain in this book, and a very good villain it is, every bit as smart and clever as Rachel, a very worthy adversary with their own dark, very dark, past. And I assume it a villain we might see more of in the future, since that is left a bit open-ended at the book's end.

I do have a few small issues with the book. I could not help but wonder how a prosecutor had so much time, days and days, to be on the road, doing her own investigation. Doesn't she have a desk full of other cases to be working on? Yes, there is a little mention of that, a few late nights at the office, 'cleaning up', but it still seemed rather unbelievable. And the frequent restaurant name dropping, while interesting at first, got a bit tiring as it went on and on. Do these people never eat at home? Do they never end a day without drinking a few martinis?
Still, I must admit that Clark was able to make Los Angeles, a city I have never had much interest in, seem rather intriguing. And that is doing something!

Guilty by Degrees is a well written, quite well done book, one that mystery fans, especially fans of legal and police thrillers, will want to pick up.

My thanks to Library Thing and the publisher for providing a copy for review.


  1. sounds good .. thanks!

    btw .. the book arrived yesterday .. thanks again!

  2. Interesting review, and yes I did read the whole review. I say I have to agree with your small issues. In so many books now days the characters are drinking wine, coffee or tea, and never eat at home. Hey! what am I saying, I hardly ever eat at home either, especially lunch, and I am always drinking something.

  3. I've read both books and really enjoyed them. Rachel and her friends do enjoy their alcohol!

  4. I had the same fear, but unlike you, have not had the opportunity to test it out with an actual book!

  5. This does sound like a good one! I'm sure IRL prosecutors don't really have spare days to go out doing their own investigating. Makes for good reading, though.


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