Monday, August 27, 2012

THE CONVICTION - Robert Dugoni

First line: "David Sloane stepped through the metal detector, grabbed his briefcase, and put on his coat while running toward a staircase, ignoring the elevators."

The Conviction is Robert Dugoni's fifth thriller featuring attorney David Sloane. In this series installment, Sloane's teenage stepson Jake is having problems dealing with the death of his mother. The problems have escalated to illegal activity. Fearing Jake's biological father cannot provide adequate supervision, the courts agree to turn over temporary custody to Sloane.

The separation of Sloane and Jake has created some tension between the two, so Sloane decides they need time away together. When Tom Molina, his detective buddy from West Virginia, offers the two a chance to join he and his son, TJ, on a hiking trip, Sloane cautiously agrees. His concern over subjecting Tom and his son to Jake is justified when Jake leads TJ right into trouble, trouble that takes them straight to court where a questionable small-town judge sentences them to a military camp before Sloane and Molina can even arrive at the courthouse.

The town's people fear the judge, so even though many similar situations have occurred in this court house, no one has ever challenged the judge or his methods. Sloane and Molina, however, have no intention of sitting back submissively and accepting these wrongs. But will their efforts to right the wrongs cost their sons too much? Will it cost Sloane and Molina too much?

While this is Dugoni's fifth novel in the series, this is my first experience with his work.  I had no problems following the plot or characters; Dugoni works in background information subtly and sufficiently to keep readers informed enough to enjoy the current book's events.

I listened to The Conviction audio, narrated by Dan John Miller.  While I'm not a fan of Miller's representation of female characters--he seems to try too hard at being female and not as hard at being that character--it wasn't a major factor in this novel. The number of female characters was limited, given the focus on a male military camp. On the flip side, I think Miller does an amazing job with male characters and has a great range for age, personality and tone.

Most parents would probably never even imagine their child would end up in a military camp, so I hesitate to say it's every parent's nightmare. But the scenario that Dugoni develops around a concept that is absolutely real--while not quite as popular as a few decades ago--will create those unimagined nightmares. The group mentality, the desire for power, the broken spirits, it's not much different than a nightmare the world faced in World War II. Miller narrates this scenario beautifully. He brings out the desperation in Sloane and Molina, the ego in the small-town judge, the blinding fear in TJ, an innocent boy who just wanted to make friends.

The character I am most impressed with from both the creation by Dugoni and the narration by Miller is Jake. His lack of years doesn't prevent him from having an array of layers. His feelings of desertion result in attempts to be independent. But he's still just a child with the same needs as any human being. Dugoni makes certain that shows in small flashes of compassion and kindness. His character is heart-breaking and all too real.

The plot is well crafted with several twists that keep readers on their toes. Miller keeps the intensity high without over-exaggerating, so nothing comes across as unrealistic or contrived.

The Conviction was a great audio experience, and I'm certain it is a great print experience as well. While I can't speak to Dugoni's previous work or make any comparisons, I can say that The Conviction hooked me and I'll definitely read more.

The Conviction is available on audio (ISBN: 978-1611063837) from Brilliance Audio and in hardcover print (ISBN: 978-1451606720) from Touchstone books.


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