Gabe McAllister, former Marine and Texas State Trooper is accused of raping a six-year-old Annie Bridges – the daughter of his ex-partner. With the DEA, Border Control, and the police coming down on him with an investigation seemingly watertight, with his supposed victim’s testimony taken on its word, Gabe is faced with the unimaginable: life in prison at Huntsville.
But not everyone can stand by and watch an innocent man go to jail, and now it’s up to Houston Tribune’s Kate Townsend and the foreman of the jury that convicted McAllister to come forward and do some investigating of their own. Huntsville Prison’s Dr.Lindsey McCall and Rich Jansen are back from the first book, keen to get involved to find out the truth – did Annie Bridges speak out for her mother, the manipulative ex? Townsend’s new reportage series is enough to get them interested in joining forces before the citizens of Houston send the wrong man down for life.
Given this is a second book to Wilder’s first, The Fragrance Shed by a Violet featuring the same cast of characters, there are some details that are not familiar to a new reader, but Wilder has done a great job in making this a standalone book. The subject matter is of course grizzly (some readers won’t be able to stomach the descriptions of child rape procedure maybe) and delves into the emotional turmoil of a woman scorned, crossing into an area seldom discussed but a real issue that happens all the time when men leave an unstable partners. The classic lie a scorned woman may give of a fake pregnancy or illness as a cry for attention is taken to a new, dark level with Annie Bridges, and author Wilder understands the psyche of a child can be deep, changeable, and fully cognitive – as well as highly impressionable. Of course, the title of the book is a nod to its strongest theme of honesty in a courtroom, and what happens when this may not have been observed.
The legal drama and court procedures will intrigue and satisfy those with a taste for convoluted high-conflict plot, and characters are well-rounded and fully local to Houston, with Wilder cleverly spinning up the professional angles of journalism, medicine, legal, and military at every turn to give the story a unique feel. It’s not a push to imagine this highly female-led series making to a TV adaptation; something like The Closer would suit very well.
If there is a criticism, it is that of the editing and style in places. Wilder often writes too-long sentences, and sometimes they become too long to read at pace, which unfortunately is the pace that Wilder requires her readers to read at. The other issue, although small, is that the book has not been edited to perfection, missing compounding of adjectives and mis-conjugation at times, sometimes jumping tense, and spelling has not been corrected at times. However, this doesn’t really interfere with the reading of the book.
Added to the fine story content, the book has been beautifully presented in its interior formatting. The cover is rather well-made too, but maybe a little too non-fiction styled for my taste. It would be easy at a glance to think it is a confessional or survival tale by this cover rather than a fictional courtroom crime drama, and this might hinder its performance once in thumbnail on Amazon, for example.
However, this book is an intriguing look at what could happen to any man in the world, and explores the female and male conflict of break-up through the lens of a courtroom drama in a way that readers will find page-turning and satisfying, if not a little harrowing at times. Wilder is an author to watch out for.
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