This is the third novel by Mark Gimenez that features A. Scott Fenney, a brilliant Dallas lawyer. His way of life was changed dramatically when forced to defend a young woman against a murder charge in The Color of Law, and we saw his sense of duty come to the fore when he defended his ex-wife against another murder charge in Accused.
It’s fair to say, then, that Mark Gimenez gives Fenney a pretty hard time. The dilemmas that are set for him remind me of Dick Barton, Special Agent, a radio play from the 1940s. One team of writers was tasked with setting Dick Barton the most impossible challenges, then another set of writers had to devise a way out – the competitiveness between the teams adding to the tension. The difference here is that A. Scott Fenney is not a man that would take an easy way out – his sense of duty is so profound that he faces impossible moral dilemmas head on, regardless of the consequences to his personal life.
In this story, we see Fenney installed as a federal judge. He has to rule on whether the President has broken constitutional law by issuing an order to allow illegal immigrants to become citizens of America. He also has to consider whether to free a terrorist accused of plotting to blow up a stadium in Dallas during the Super Bowl. The attorney general and the president are counting on him to detain the suspect – the only problem is the absence of any evidence against him.
I think Gimenez is at his best with this character, especially because we continue to hear about his family life as his teenage daughters grow up and become a key part of the plot in this book. He also gives a sly reference to Bookman, the main character in his earlier book, Con Law.
I’ve read several books by Mark Gimenez before and really enjoyed them, so I was surprised to look back and see that I hadn’t read one for over 2 years! Gimenez’ best work are the novels featuring A. Scott Fenney, but in this novel he introduces a new character, John Bookman (known as ‘Book’).
By profession, Book is a professor of constitutional law – he is apparently sort after for his views on media shows and has published widely. Yet, as well as being a celebrity by today’s standards, he is also known for pursuing legal cases on a pro-bono basis, often getting himself and his interns into trouble (they get to come along for the ride, literally, on his Harley). And in another quirk of fate, Book can look after himself – he’s highly proficient in Tae Kwon Do.
Although I enjoyed this book, I didn’t buy into the main character as much as other characters imagined by Gimenez. Book has many similarities to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher – including the womanising, the fights, the investigations and the maverick attitude. I’d rather read Jack Reacher any day – and the latest thriller, Night School, is next on my reading list.
This is the first novel by Gimenez and starts the story of Scott Fenney, continued in Accused. It’s worth reading them in the correct order, but it was still a great journey even knowing the outcome.
I found the passage where Scott Fenney’s life as a hotshot lawyer is slowly dismantled particularly vivid. The daughter of his client, Pajamae, is refreshing in that she doesn’t wallow in her misfortune, instead bringing her street smarts and common sense to this high-flying Dallas familiy.
Initially, I was concerned that this book was going to be a bit dull – it starts with a lot of scene setting about American politics and there’s much coverage of the history/geography of the border with Mexico. Having read the book, I totally forgive the author for spending the time to introduce the reader to these matters – it brings realism to the motivations and main characters: the Governor, the Mexican doctor and the bandit (El Diablo). Interesting that the title is The Governor’s Wife – she’s the focal point of the plot, but not necessarily involved in much of the story line.
It’s a terrific book. The action sequence at the end that brings together the three male protaganists is on a par with Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, yet his handling of the journey taken by the Governor and his change of outlook is sensitively written. He gives great colour to even minor roles – if a film is made of this book, I bet many stars will covet the role of the political advisor to the Governor.
Definitely worth reading – I’m looking forward to another by Mark Gimenez.
I read The Common Lawyer after having read Accused by the same author. I really enjoyed Accused, so was really looking forward to this one – but ultimately I was disappointed. One of the elements I expected was there – detailed scene setting, leaving the reader with a vivid mental picture of the streets in Austin where the book is set. But I didn’t have much sympathy with the young lawyer character and overall I thought the plot was a bit thin, with needless murders sprinkled throughout to spice up the action.
Really enjoyed this, it kept me guessing until the last page, with plenty of suspense and excitement. The author interspersed some funny passages too, particularly between the lawyer and his young daughters. This was the first book I’d read by Gimenez, but I will be back for more.