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Bookends: Who really killed Alicia Hutchins? December 30, 2018

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, mystery, thriller, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: Who really killed Alicia Hutchins?

By Dan Davidson

May 1, 2018

– 731 words –


Snap Judgment

By Marcia ClarkSnap

Thomas an Mercer

447 pages



Snap Judgment is the third novel in Marcia Clark’s series about lawyer Samantha Brinkman. Brinkman’s small firm, Brinkman and Associates, includes her receptionist and organizer Michelle Fusco and her investigator and computer whiz, Alex Medrano. One of her closest friends is her father, Detective Dale Pearson, whom she did not know as her father when she took him on as a client a few years earlier.

From what I have read, Brinkman undertakes a variety of cases, but the main plots in the novels seem to involve her defending professional people.

In this case, her possible client is prominent civil litigator Graham Hutchins, whose daughter, Alicia, was recently found murdered in her off-campus apartment.

It seems that her boyfriend, Roan, with whom she about to break up, is the most obvious suspect. Certainly Alicia’s diary entry, which opens this book, points us in that direction. But Roan turns up dead shortly after, an apparent suicide. Was it remorse for the death of Alicia or was it actually revenge by someone else?

If the latter, then the needle might swing round to point at Hutchins, the grieving father. He views Sam as a friend and colleague and admires her tenacity on other cases enough to think that she would do well by him, should the police decide he is a person of interest.

It’s a bit of a Perry Mason style trope for the lawyer to decide that the best way to keep her client safe is to find the real killer, but that device can still work if it is deftly done, and Clark carries it off fairly well.

All murder mysteries have to have red herrings dragged across their plot lines, and there are lots of those here. Sam’s not entirely sure she trusts Hutchins to give her all the information she needs to work with. There are, in fact, various surprises that she uncovers along the way, surprises about Alicia and surprises about her client.

Books are picking up the idea of multiple plot lines from television, where the average show will have A, B, and sometimes C, plots weaving in and out of each other. Some will be event driven; others will have more to do with relationships.

The B plot here involves Sam’s obligations to a rather serious and nasty underworld type named Cabazon, who insists that she be of service to him in a matter unrelated to the main story. This involves some complicated family relationships, and has a ticking timeline attached to it. Solutions here involve some tricky maneuvering and careful crossing of legal lines.

Springing from that plot, but tangential to it, is a third problem involving domestic abuse. Again it requires a bit of tricky, not entirely legal, business to solve that problem.

The author is, herself, a famous (or infamous) lawyer, having started out as a defense attorney before moving to the prosecution, and having become most famous for her failure to convict O.J. Simpson. Following that debacle, she left the courts, co-wrote a book about the case, and became a frequent commentator on a variety of shows and networks, including Today, Good Morning America, The Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, and MSNBC, as well as a legal correspondent for Entertainment Tonight.

More recently she turned to crime fiction, producing a series of novels about a prosecutor, Rachel Knight, before moving to the other side of the courtroom with Brinkman. This series has already been optioned for a television show.

It’s not unusual for legal eagles to turn their hand at crime fiction. Erle Stanley Gardner, author of the aforementioned Perry Mason novels, written one or two a year from 1933 to 1973 (some published after his death in 1970), was also a lawyer. B.C. author William Deverell, who attended the Yukon Writers Festival and Young Authors’ Conference some years ago, was also a criminal lawyer and a prosecutor. His best known novels are probably the satirically humorous ones featuring Arthur Beauchamp, QC, but much earlier in his career, he wrote the pilot for CBC’s Street Legal series, which is about to be revived.

Our recently retired Supreme Court Chief Justice, Beverley McLachlin, apparently wiled away her spare time dabbling in crime fiction, and her first legal thriller, Full Disclosure, hit the bookstores earlier this week.