When I heard that Canada’s first female Chief Justice had written a legal thriller, I had to check it out. Is there any better-informed legal authority who could shed light on the Canadian justice system?
Jilly Truitt is an ambitious criminal defense lawyer working in Vancouver. Despite warnings from several people, she takes on the case of defending a wealthy businessman, Vincent Trussardi, who is charged with murdering his wife. She hopes she can find something which will give the jury reasonable doubt to acquit her client. As she discovers that Trussardi comes with considerable baggage, she deals with her own past which involved foster care and drug abuse.
I appreciated reading a book written from a Canadian perspective. It shows the criminal justice system in Canada and what happens in a Canadian courtroom; this is a refreshing change from the plethora of American legal thrillers and television courtroom dramas. The book is truly Canadian in many respects: it shows the various neighbourhoods of Vancouver and makes reference to the Pickton’s pig farm, the vineyards of the Okanagan, and Indigenous art like Salish carvings. So what’s with the Americanized spelling of words like “color” and “favor” and “splendor”?
Unfortunately, there are weaknesses in the novel. For instance, there are so many people connected to Jilly who have had dealings with Vincent: her social worker, her almost-fiancé, her last foster father. What are the chances that a drug dealer known to Jilly would also have known the murder victim? Months pass for the truth of what happened to be discovered yet nothing is, but then after the verdict has been delivered, the truth is quickly revealed.
The identity of the murderer is fairly obvious. The list of perpetrators is very short considering how the victim was killed, so a Sherlock Holmes is not required to solve the case. There is considerable discussion of “tunnel vision” during the trial, but it seems that the reader is expected to suffer from this defect.
The book blurb mentions that Jilly “uncovers a startling revelation that will change not only the case, but her life forever.” This is not true. An astute reader will suspect the truth very early on because the clues are so obvious. Repeatedly conversations are cut short: “’No, I didn’t” and “’It’s over, Jilly’” are two statements made by people which Jilly should have followed up with “What do you mean?” but she doesn’t.
I feel uncomfortable criticizing the work of such an accomplished woman, but I would be less than honest if I ignored the flaws. The novel is a quick read with short, easily manageable chapters, and it requires little thought so the best I can say is that it is a good beach or airport read.