The Fall Girl, by Marcia Clark

Seven stars

Always eager to read the legal fiction she writes, I turned to the latest novel by Marcia Clark. While some readers will remember her from the early 90s—when a certain iconic sports hero got away with murder—Clark has reinvented herself as a great writer of legal thrillers, pulling on her experiences, both personal and professional. Clark weaves an intriguing story that adds layers as the story progresses, though it lacked some of the impact I came to expect in both her previous series. A decent novel, though not yet at the level I have come to expect of Marcia Clark.

Charlie Blair has been trying to reinvent herself in the Santa Cruz DA’s office, having left a great deal in the dust. While she’s been trying to forget her past life in Chicago, she’s been finding the ability to self-medicate usually takes the edge off. However, all that comes crashing down when she’s handed the file of a recently murdered bail bondsman, Shelly Hansen.

When Charlie is paired with the new hot-shot prosecutor, it could be a great match. Charlie hopes to learn much from Erika Lorman, who has a way with juries and is riding a high after putting away a celebrity chef for murder. However, Charlie notices some cracks in the case and cannot help but wonder if there was something more than legal maneuverings taking place.

With a prime suspect in Shelly Hansen’s murder in the crosshairs, Charlie will have to decide if she can pin the murder of a teenage girl. Things seem to be stacked up against her, but even Charlie cannot believe everything she’s reading. When a distraction from her past puts Charlie on the edge, there’s no telling how the present case will be affected. A chilling legal thriller that has many of the needed elements to make a great story.

When I discovered that Marcia Clark was writing legal thrillers, I had to given them a chance. I could not put them down once I started, as the stories are as intense as they are gritty. A strong plot keeps things interesting for the reader, while Clark uses her legal knowledge to paint quite the picture. While this one waned a bit, there is hope that it was simply the standalone jitters that left me feeling a tad underwhelmed.

The key to a great thriller is to find the crime and build on it from there. I feel as though Marcia Clark has been using all the needed ingredient to make a great story, from a foundational narrative on up. Proving to be a key pathway to the story’s success, the narrative uses both past and present to tell the story of Charlie Blair, filling in gaps for the reader along the way. Great characters help paint the scenes well, though I was sometimes confused as the time period changes from chapter to chapter. The plot kept things interesting, both in the courtroom and out in the community. Even with two time periods, things appeared to come together nicely. It may have simply been me and the headspace in which I currently find myself, but I felt a lack of spark throughout the piece. There were great moments, but my attention waned as I forged through the book, which is not what usually happens when Marcia Clark is at the helm. I will chalk it up to a lot on my plate and see what others feel about this book before casting my views too heavily.

Kudos, Madam Clark, for another good book. I hope others find a great deal to enjoy in your writing as well.