Denial (Jilly Truitt #2), by Beverley McLachlin

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Beverley McLachlin, and Simon & Schuster Canada for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Having served a long and illustrious career in the Canadian legal field, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverley McLachlin, has not been resting on her laurels in retirement. Rather, she’s come up with some amazing legal thrillers that keep the reader flipping pages to get to the core of the case. Jilly Truitt is an established lawyer, getting her practice in order and can finally choose her clients, rather than take whatever scraps are tossed her way. When an acquaintance asks that she take on the case of his wife, Jilly is sceptical. Vera Quentin is accused of killing her mother with a legal dose of morphine, though she denies the charges. Two previous defence attorneys have quit and the judge is not likely to grant another continuance. Jilly reluctantly agrees to the case, which opens many issues, both with the legal preparation and the law towards assisted suicide in Canada. The further Jilly explores, the more twists the case provides, which only fuels her to get to the truth. Another stunning piece by McLachlin, whose fiction writing is as riveting as the judgements delivered from the bench.

After a rocky few years, Jilly Truitt is finally making a name for herself in Vancouver’s criminal defence community. She’s established herself as a gritty lawyer with nothing holding her back. When she is approached by Joseph Quentin, she is intrigued, particularly because the man is a no-nonsense legal mind who has been dealing with some family issues of late. Quentin’s wife, Vera, is on trial the the murder of her mother, Olivia Stanton. While Vera denies this, she also refuses to take a plea being offered by the Crown’s Attorney, Cy Kenge. Jilly really does not want the case, particularly since two other attorneys quit in the lead-up to trial, but there’s something here.

Jilly agrees to meet with Vera and is persuaded after their frank conversation. While Olivia Stanton felt strongly about her right to die, having suffered from cancer and being in constant pain, Vera has outwardly refused to take such measures. Still, on the night of Olivia’s death, Vera was the only other person in the house. Jilly must find a crack in the story that the Crown is presenting and show that Vera’s adamant behaviour is her own defence. However, Vera has issues of her own, including mental health, which creates a sense of denying the truth on occasion.

While working the case, Jilly has been doing some pro bono work and helps a young woman who is fleeing human trafficking. However, not all of Vancouver’s criminal element feel so fondly about Jilly, meaning that there are many who would have painted a target on her back. Still, Jilly cannot let that deter her from doing good work, either in the courtroom or for those who need help as victims of horrible crimes.

When Jilly finds a new angle to approach in the case, she rushes forward, learning that Olivia may have been making some significant changes to her estate before dying. Could this has fuelled someone to take drastic action to stop things in their tracks? It’s only when the case goes to trial that Jilly is handed a significant set-up, as additional secrets about Vera’s life come to the surface and truths paint a new picture about what might have happened that night.

Working every perspective and trying not to enter any traps set by Cy Kenge, Jilly works her legal magic and tries to stay the course, even as personal tragedy befalls her in the middle of presenting her case. Vera Quentin may be espousing her innocence, but the facts left to the jury are nowhere nearly as clear cut. Denial of the truth could be the one weakness Jilly and Vera must overcome before this ends. A stunning thriller that will keep the reader hooked until the very end.

Having followed the career of Beverley McLachlin for many years, I was excited to see that she was able to make the shift from Chief Justice of Canada to a published author. Not only that, but her writing is gripping and riveting, something that not all lawyers and judges can do when moving into the world of fiction. McLachlin spins a tale with a great Canadian flavour and keeps the reader turning pages with ease. I can only hope that there are more Jilly Truitt thrillers to come before long.

Jilly Truitt remains a wonderful protagonist in this piece. She builds on her past from the series debut and grows quite nicely in this piece. Working to carve a niche for herself in Vancouver’s busy legal community is surely not easy, but she has done it with ease and flair, something that shows throughout the book. Her gritty determination shines through, as does her desire to protect any client for whom she works. There are moments of weakness for her, as depicted in a subplot of the book, but she comes out determined to set things straight, as best she can.

McLachlin uses strong supporting characters throughout the piece to keep the story moving and complement Jilly effectively. There are angles of the story that depict legal issues in Canada, familial squabbles, and even personal interactions, all of which are effectively covered through the numerous characters introduced throughout. McLachlin has paved the way for a wonderful novel and builds on her stellar debut piece with both new and returning characters sure to impress the reader.

I have long loved a good legal thriller, but find it hard to find ones set outside the big domains of the US and UK. McLachlin has done well to present the Canadian angle, which differs from both without being too off the wall. The narrative flowed well and keeps the reader enthralled throughout, using strong characters and a paced plot that gains momentum as the story builds. A mix of chapter lengths serve to fuel the story, teasing the reader at times while also pulling them in for a legal or personal exploration at times. I found myself reading and not wanting to stop, which is not always an easy feat. However, there was something about this book. Some bemoan that McLachlin ought to have stayed with her courtroom work, but I am sure it is only that they did not take the time to allow the story to really sink in. I cannot wait for more!

Kudos, Madam McLachlin (not sure what title I ought to use), for another wonderful piece. I cannot wait to see what Jilly Truitt will discover next and how that will add to the greatness of this blossoming series.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Truth Be Told: My Journey Through Life and the Law, by Beverley McLachlin

Nine stars

In this telling memoir, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverley McLachlin, speaks freely about her life and some of the events than impacted it on her climb to the top of Canada’s judicial community. Hailing from the small community of Pincher Creek, Alberta, Beverley Gietz was a highly intelligent girl, though her teachers were never sure she’d accomplish much outside of the traditional roles for women. The eldest child, Beverley paved the way for her siblings and admired her hard-working parents as they tried the best they could on their small ranch. Taking a gamble, Gietz was able to win a spot to the University of Alberta, where she immersed herself in philosophy and dabbled in journalism, enjoying her ability to explore the innermost thoughts of the mind, while expressing herself with the written word. Her university breaks allowed her to return to southern Alberta, where a few suitors awaited her, but none caught her eye as much as Rory McLachlin, who was a farmhand and academic in his own right. Their relationship blossomed and Rory challenged Beverley to consider studying law. She did and thus paved the way to bigger and better things.

After telling of some interesting goings-on in mid-1960s law school, Beverley and Rory’s relationship grew and they soon married, though their lives did not become any less hectic. McLachlin tells of trying to break into the legal world in the late 1960s, a time when sexism was rampant and women were still new to the ‘clubhouse’. Working as hard as she ever had, McLachlin impressed her male counterparts and rose in the firm at which she worked, all of which helped a young lawyer find a niche in ensuring everyone received equal treatment. When Rory’s life took him to smaller communities in northern British Columbia, Beverley followed him, their connection strengthened by not needing to commute. Eventually, their lives led them to Vancouver, as Beverley scored work at the University of British Columbia’s Law School, honing some of her skills in a position she loved. The birth of her son, Angus, helped her to see life through new eyes and she comments throughout about being a less than stellar parent, even though she had amazing parents who offered many tools. Juggling parenthood and a career, McLachlin was surprised when she was called to accept a seat on the bench, beginning a storied career as a judge. She shares a few of her memories, including seeing things from other perspectives when seated above the fray. Other promotions came, many of which were shocking and highly sought-after positions, though Rory’s health was beginning to deteriorate. His passing would shock the close-knit McLachlin family and gave some sobering of where the law fit into the larger picture. While she did seek some time to get her head on straight, McLachlin found her rhythm again, working the docket until she received a call from the prime minister, seeking her to accept a position on the Supreme Court of Canada.

This move is surely one of the most coveted positions in Canada’s legal community. McLachlin accepted it and flourished, learning the ropes alongside six men and two other women, crawling through the shards of the glass ceiling that had been smashed years before. The memoir not only details the move to Ottawa, across the country from her Vancouver home, but also the highly political nature of the cases that came before her. She discusses themes that arose and how aspects of Canada’s constitution handled them, including some of her own thoughts on these issues. Angus was settling in nicely and McLachlin was able to find new love in a man who respected her position and did not feel threatened. McLachlin found her niche and thrived as she heard cases and became accustomed to the importance of the work. A final call from the prime minister sought her to fill the role of Chief Justice, the first woman to do so. She accepted and became not only a strong administrator, but a stellar legal ambassador for the entire Canadian legal community. McLachlin lets the reader in to see some of the work behind the curtain, but always keeps things professional and does not spill secrets relating the other justices. This, her final legal job ever, allowed McLachlin to end her career shaping and helping those who needed it most. By the time ‘Citizen McLachlin’ emerged, Canada was a much different place and she was happy with its transformation.

While the idea of a legal memoir might seem dry to some, Beverley McLachlin’s writing and storytelling is anything but academic or stale. She recounts her story in such a way that any reader can understand her roots and witness the climb throughout the legal community. Her passion throughout appears to be those whose voices are not heard and she fought diligently to press for equality and representation. Women’s rights were only one of a number of causes, doing so within the parameters of the law while finding new and innovative ways to break age-old views in a country that was still learning to live independently in its legal nuances. McLachlin personalises the anecdotes she offers, tying them into both her own experiences and offering some needed backstories to provide context for the reader. She was of the people and not above them, as her position on the bench might leave some to surmise. While I loved the easy to digest delivery of the memoir throughout, I felt it lacked some meat during her legal career. I wanted to hear more about the cases she argued—and heard—as well as the constitutional impact they had on Canada. I wanted to hear of the scuffles and the arguments, as well as the clashing legal opinions between McLachlin and her fellow justices. She admits that the Supreme Court of Canada is surely not as political as that of the United States, but there are sure to be some exciting stories as the rights and freedoms of the people of this great land are forged. Perhaps I have read too many memoirs of American judges or expected added drama, but I can see how McLachlin might want to dilute the legal rhetoric to appeal to a larger reading base. With easy to read chapters and a flowing narrative, McLachlin makes her life one that can easily be understood and admired, allowing anyone who picks up this book to discover the wonders of the Canadian legal system and how a farm girl in rural Alberta can rise to become the most powerful legal entity. Anyone can do it, with a little hard work and the support of those around them.

Kudos, Madam Former Chief Justice (what is the proper title?!) McLachlin, for this stellar piece of work. I learned so very much and am grateful for all you did throughout your career. I loved your piece of fiction as well and hope you’ll have some time to write as you enjoy a much-deserved rest.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Full Disclosure, by Beverley McLachlin

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Beverley McLachlin, and Simon & Schuster Canada for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

In her first piece of published fiction, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Beverley McLachlin storms onto the scene with this courtroom thriller that will keep the reader guessing until the final chapters. Jilly Truitt is trying to establish herself as a competent defence attorney in Vancouver. Having been brought up in the foster care system, Jilly has seen just how dark things can get and found a way to move towards the light. Having been mentored by the best when she was fresh from law school, Jilly now finds herself face to face with the same man who taught her how to shape the law to her favour. When millionaire Vincent Trussardi hires her to defend him on a murder charge, things do not look good, but Jilly is up for a challenge. Having been accused of killing his wife, Laura, Trussardi proclaims his innocence and will not accept anything less than being fully exonerated. As soon as she begins preparing for trial, Jilly is warned by many to drop this legal hot potato as fast as she can, as there are secrets and mysteries that could easily trip up her defence. Still, Jilly sees potential and will use this to springboard her to greater success within the Vancouver legal community. However, with the case progressing, Jilly hits a few snags but cannot be deterred; she is in for the long-run. At trial, Crown Prosecutor Cy Kenge will do whatever it takes to bury his former protégé, forcing her to see that some people do not deserve their day in court. With the city watching and everything on the line, Jilly must decide if Trussardi’s defence is worth all she has to offer. McLachlin does well with this, her debut novel, and will have those who love the genre raving about this for years to come!

Having followed former Chief Justice McLachlin throughout her time on the High Court, I was ecstatic at the opportunity to read her first novel, a wonderful career change since her recent retirement. McLachlin uses all her legal skills and injects the perfect amount of realistic plot and dialogue to help the reader relate to the story, be they from Canada or not. Jilly Truitt is a wonderfully crafted character, whose backstory is somewhat murky, but is revealed throughout the narrative. Jilly seeks not only to better understand herself, but the world around her, as well as how her clients could get into the messes in which they find themselves. The reader will notice some character development throughout the piece, both inside the courtroom and with her personal life. McLachlin surely knows how to breathe life into her characters, which is equally exemplified in the others who populate the intense narrative. Working together, there are enough crumbs left that the attentive reader could see a series emerging, giving just enough to pique curiosity. The plot is strong and the crimes believable to the point that they are realistic. The story moves through case preparation and into the courtroom, where McLachlin utilises her legal expertise to deliver banter where needed and testimony summary at other times. While the chapters are not extremely lengthy, there are some who bulk up the narrative, though they pass with ease as the reader forges ahead and makes the most of the experience. The reader is ready for all McLachlin has to offer and finds themselves treated to a wonderful legal thriller. There is enough Canadian content to give it a wonderful flavour, though the Canadiana does not inculcate the reader at every page flip. Highly recommended and one can hope that there is more Jilly Truitt to come in the near future.

Kudos, Madam Former Chief Justice McLachlin (is this the correct title, anyone?), for such a stellar debut. I will be encouraging anyone who enjoys the genre to read this and judge for themselves.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: