Saturday, March 18, 2017

Summary Justice - John Fairfax

Sent to me by the Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: 02/03/17

Publisher: Little, Brown

ISBN: 978-1408708729

Format: Hardback, 295pp

Genre: Law/Crime/Courtroom Drama

Rating: 4.5/5

Summed up in one word:

First Impressions
Thank you for visiting me for another 2017 fiction book review. I have an addiction to American courtroom dramas so I was thrilled to be asked to review Summary Justice. I have never read a British law novel so I was definitely intrigued to see how I would enjoy it compared to American law authors like Grisham and Baldacci. John Fairfax (real name William Brodrick) did an exceptional job with Summary Justice and I recommend it to all crime/drama/law readers. Thank you to Little, Brown for sending me a copy to review here on Always Trust In Books. To see more books that Little, Brown have to offer in 2017 then check out their website here:

Book Synopsis
The last time Tess de Vere saw William Benson she was a law student on work experience. He was a twenty-one year old, led from the dock of the Old Bailey to begin a life sentence for murder. He'd said he was innocent. She'd believed him.

Sixteen years later Tess overhears a couple of hacks mocking a newcomer to the London Bar, a no-hoper with a murder conviction, running his own show from an old fishmonger's in Spitalfields. That night she walks back into Benson's life. The price of his rehabilitation - and access to the Bar - is an admission of guilt to the killing of Paul Harbeton, whose family have vowed revenge. He's an outcast. The government wants to shut him down and no solicitor will instruct him. But he's subsidised by a mystery benefactor and a desperate woman has turned to him for help: Sarah Collingstone, mother of a child with special needs, accused of slaying her wealthy lover. It's a hopeless case and the murder trial, Benson's first, starts in four days. The evidence is overwhelming but like Benson long ago, she swears she's innocent. Tess joins the defence team, determined to help Benson survive. But as Benson follows the twists and turns in the courtroom, Tess embarks upon a secret investigation of her own, determined to uncover the truth behind the death of Paul Harbeton on a lonely night in Soho.

True to life, fast-paced and absolutely compelling, Summary Justice introduces a new series of courtroom dramas featuring two maverick lawyers driven to fight injustice at any cost. (Official Little, Brown Synopsis)

The Review - Should a convicted murderer have a place in the courtroom protecting those accused of the same offence..?
The plot idea for Summary Justice really stood out to me when I picked it up earlier this year. A convicted murderer being allowed to practice law is both paradoxical and intriguing. The two main elements to this book that kept me reading were William Benson himself and the complexity of both his character and storyline. Benson is out of prison and is fighting all the animosity that comes with being a murderer. A burning passion for defending those wrongly accused has helped him overcome every obstacle between him and the courtroom. Finally becoming a criminal barrister, Benson is ready to rebuild his name.

Though the courtroom drama is a tried and tested format for excitement and plot twists, John Fairfax (William Brodrick) has managed to turn the scenario into something so much more complex and thought provoking. This is mainly down to Benson. His backstory is shady, filled with grey areas and contradictions, and we don't really get to find out what really happened and why. The mystery of why he may or may not have committed the murder all those years ago was always in the back of my mind, pulling me in, making me wonder and question everything. 

Tess de Vere is the shield that keeps all the chaos at bay. She knew of Benson briefly before he went down. 16 years later, after finding out Benson is free, she finds him and for deeply personal reasons decides to help to get his career of the ground. Tess is desperate to believe that Benson is innocent of murder, but the uncertainty forces her to take a step back and try to figure out for herself if he was capable and for what reason.

The main plot follows Benson and Tess' first case which happens to also concern a murder charge. To start off with I thought that discerning what really happened with Sarah Collingstone was going to be fairly easy... I was wrong. Throwing so much detail at the reader and being able to keep it coherent and interesting is a true art form. John Fairfax did an exceptional job with the plot. I eventually gave up trying to figure it out and went along for the ride. I had a lot of fun just following the twists and turns of the case while trying to figure out Benson and his history.

Along with the court case there are several key sub-plots that mostly focus on Benson. We rarely get an idea of what Benson is truly experiencing as this book is set in the third person and Fairfax gives very little away. There are snippets of Benson's experience in jail which mainly consisted of fear, panic and developing coping mechanisms. I hope we get more details of his prison time in further instalments of the series. Tess' investigation into Benson's past is also a great chunk of mystery based goodness and again, I want more soon.

I am trying so hard to talk to much about the main details as they are spoiler central. Fairfax is an engaging writer who manages to make a story so compelling while giving almost nothing away. Fairfax manages to dodge quite a few of the courtroom cliches which is always appreciated. The element of the book I most enjoyed is the many different types of individual that Fairfax chose to include. From straight edge and sympathetic to brutal and unforgiving. Each character has a distinctive presence and they each do a great job of throwing readers of their game. 

Summary Justice is rife with conflict, moral choices and mystery. I recommend to all those readers who enjoy a compelling story line that does not spell it out to the reader. I know I am going to be invested in this series for a long time so I suggest you join me. I have read a lot of courtroom dramas and they consistently put plot before characters. I was impressed that Fairfax was able to balance both sides adequately. I have given Summary Justice 4.5/5 stars as I enjoyed my time with the book and couldn't really find much to fault. The only frustrating part to reading this book is now having to wait for another one.

Pick up a copy of Summary Justice here: Little, Brown/Amazon UK/Goodreads

About the Author: William Brodrick was born in Bolton, Lancashire in 1960. Aged ten the family moved first to Australia and then Canada. He studied philosophy, theology and law, worked with homeless people in London, and then became a barrister, joining a set of chambers in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He is the author of six Father Anselm novels. The Sixth Lamentation, was a Richard and Judy Book Club Selection, A Whispered Name won the CWA Gold Dagger for 2009 and The Day of the Lie received the Granice Crime Fiction Award at the Krakow Book Fair in 2012 He is married with three children. The family live in Normandy, France. (Official LB Bio) (Picture from Goodreads) Go to his Goodreads profile here: William Brodrick

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