Rachel Knight is a Los Angeles DA facing the death of her colleague Jake. His death appears to be a murder-suicide but Rachel isn't buying that. However, the powers that be have specifically instructed her to stay away from the case. Instead, she's been handed a political hot potato of a rape case that Jake was working on before his untimely demise.
As most any intelligent being will attest to, one does not tell a strong-willed woman to "stay away" from anything. Teaming up with her detective pal, Bailey, Rachel walks headlong into a storm of deception and danger. In her own words, Rachel admits:
"There's no such thing as a case without surprises, but they're generally little minnow-size twists that only involve side issues. What we had here was a game-changing sperm whale."As I read GUILT BY ASSOCIATION, I was regularly confronted, "Hey is that - " "Yes it is."
"Jen, is that - " "YES! It is."
"Jen, the author, is that - " "YES. IT. IS!"
It got to the point where I wouldn't even look up when people started talking to me while I was reading. Or I'd walk in the office lunch room and just say, "yes it is" before anyone could ask. So let's get the 100-pound gorilla outta the room right now. Yes, GUILT BY ASSOCIATION is the debut novel of Marcia Clark, the lead prosecutor from the O.J. Simpson trial. Great, that's out of the way.
Now let's talk about the great legal thriller she wrote.
The plot of GUILT BY ASSOCIATION is the summation of several sub-plots that weave themselves all around a central point, which is the protagonist Rachel. Clark does an impressive job of keeping the reader on his/her toes with the plot often taking unexpected turns. But the other technique she uses to make the story strong is characterization.
Clark's created characters the reader can empathize with and connect with. They are complex characters who offer up challenges. For example, one of my favorite characters is a rape suspect and gang leader, Luis Revelo. He has aspirations of attending business school and is working diligently on his elocution, but often lapses into street slang when he's frustrated. Does Luis wear a white hat and ride around rescuing people? No. He's a criminal, but Clark depicts all the elements of Luis, not just his criminal element.
The characters tie back to the plot because the reader cares about the players in the game, so he/she intends to stay to the end to see the outcome. There may even be some cheering or booing because the emotional connection is present.
While I read this book in print, I think as an avid audiobook listener, I've become more acutely aware of dialogue and its quality level. GUILT BY ASSOCIATION has some of the most fun dialogue I have read in awhile. Clark's wit comes through in the conversations between Rachel and her good friends Bailey and Toni, as well as Rachel's conversations with Graden Hales, a police lieutenant and Luis.
The great dialogue also helps to develop the great relationships Clark illustrates throughout the book. And not just the relationships between Rachel and her friends, but also relationships like Susan, the rape victim, with her parents or the relationships between Luis and his gang members. Los Angeles is an array of people and surroundings and Clark brings it all to life, not just a select snapshot.
Reading GUILT BY ASSOCIATION I learned two things. First, people still look at your book jackets when you read in public. And second, Marcia Clark is one fine crime fiction writer. I'm looking forward to more contributions from her.
GUILT BY ASSOCIATION (ISBN: 978-0-316-12951-0) is available tomorrow as not only Marcia Clark's debut, but also the debut of Mulholland Books. Congrats to the entire team. GUILT BY ASSOCIATION is also available from Hachette Audio on audiobook (ISBN: 978-1-609-41978-3).