Moral Defense (Samantha Brinkman #2), by Marcia Clark

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Marcia Clark, and Thomas & Mercer for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.

In her latest thriller, Clark brings Samantha Brinkman back for more captivating drama and legal wrangling. Discovering her father and brother murdered and mother hanging on by a thread, Cassie Sonnenberg is at the centre of a media frenzy. Why was she spared and could the killer come back for her to finish things off? Playing the proactive approach and knowing that Cassie will need legal representation, Samantha Brinkman has the courts appoint her Cassie’s lawyer. While she is cognizant that her client has been through much over the past few weeks, Brinkman is keen to get the larger picture of the entire happenings, mainly to protect Cassie from future loopholes. Brinkman engages her team–office manager, Michelle, and investigator, Alex– to help develop Cassie’s story. Adopted by the Sonnenbergs at a young age, Cassie has been able to fit nicely within the unit. However, Cassie admitted to eventually becoming the sexual plaything to both her brother and father, which fuelled not only a sense of vulnerability, but also a simmering rage. Once the police are able to disprove Cassie’s witness statement on the night of the murder and stumble upon some damning evidence, she is placed into custody, forcing Brinkman to turn the representation into a full-fledged criminal defence. Brinkman brings Alex on board to flesh-out the abuse allegations and they seek to build up a solid defence based on this information, while trying to keep the practice’s other cases from going stale. Alex discovers that key people in Cassie’s life seem not to have been aware of some abuse claims, or recite the facts in a scripted manner when interviewed. When a key piece of evidence falls into place, an alternate set of facts comes into play and a suspect with more motive to kill the Sonnenbergs emerges. Even with this new potential killer, trouble comes when Cassie will not cooperate, the only hurdle to being able to get her off the hook. As Samantha Brinkman contorts herself in legal and personal ways she could not have thought possible, the story becomes more complicated, pitting Cassie against a set of facts that leaves her completely vulnerable and on trial for murder. Clark’s legal background and strong writing ability make this another must-read in her new legal series.

Having followed Clark through her previous series, I was unsure how well I would adjust to Samantha Brinkman. My uncertainty was quickly quashed when I read the opening novel in this new series, chock-full of character development and backstories that kept the reader hooked from the early chapters. This follow-up is leaps and bounds ahead of even that story, so much so that I could not help but devour it in a few concentrated sittings. Not only has Clark used her strong protagonist in the form of Samantha Brinkman, but by bringing Michelle and Alex back in their capacities as strong supporting characters, the flow of the novel is stronger, picking up where the first novel ended. With a deeply personal story that is strengthened by a crisp narrative, Clark allows the reader not only to see how she can get to the heart of the manner, but also tap into strong emotions on the part of Brinkman. This creates a drive In the narrative and helps push the story along in a credible fashion. The novel also paces itself nicely as there are numerous cases (read: storylines) that develop throughout, forcing Clark not only to shine the spotlight on one and give the others passing mention. Each case develops and finds some resolution, though there are some delectable bits that keep the reader wondering what else Clark might have in store for future novels. With her legal background and setting the novels in and around the Greater Los Angeles area, Clark is able to keep things realistic and sustain the momentum that is essential for this type of novel, which relies on pulling the reader in and not letting go. Clark has effectively kept readers sated and curious simultaneously, while keeping her narrative as realistic as possible. There might not be any courtroom scenes that leave the reader gasping, but there is a significant amount of sleuthing and tense exchanges, which only thicken the plot. A wonderful piece of writing that has me hooked and seeking more, as soon as Clark can place Samantha Brinkman into another legal thriller.

Kudos, Madam Clark for writing at such a high caliber. You have succeeded in winning many fans with your realistic approach. I can only wonder what directions you see Brinkman going in the next few years.