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:

Denial: Holocaust History on Trial, by Deborah E. Lipstadt

Eight stars

Seeking something a little controversial thought-provoking, I turned to Deborah Lipstadt’s book, which depicts the trial she faced for libel against prolific UK author, David Irving. While this may seem a tad mind-numbing, the topic of discussion—Holocaust denials—turns the piece on its head and pulls the reader into the mix. Lipstadt sets the scene for the reader by explaining how things got to this point. In the mid-90s, she penned a book about the Holocaust, in which many of David Irving’s sentiments about the fallacy of the Nazi action came to light. Irving, a well-known writer in some circles—loosely called a ‘historian’ by others—appeared to take offence to this and sued Lipstadt for libel in the British courts, the country from which he hails. Unlike the American courts, British justice requires the accused to prove the libellous comments, putting Lipstadt on the hot seat. As she works with her legal team and Penguin Publishing, Lipstadt is unsure how anything can really come from his trial, which is sure to be a farce and end before things get too heated. Little does she know, but Irving is ready to clash and prepares his own prosecutorial attack to ensure he wins. As the trial opens, the reader is able to see many of the sentiments that Irving made in his books and speeches denying the Holocaust, including the attempts to deny that the atrocities ever took place. Lipstadt depicts the slow and sometimes painful progress of the trial, in which Irving tries not only to defend his views, but turn witness testimony around, while seeking to sever inferences that history and proof has shown. What might have been summarily dismissed turns into a massive trial in which Holocaust denial becomes the central theme. While her legal team refuses to let Lipstadt testify, her words in this book that summarise events are more explosive than anything I might have seen sitting in the gallery. Equally deplorable and captivating, Lipstadt shows how far some people will go while using freedom of speech to ignore what has been thoroughly documented over the past seventy years. Highly recommended to those who can stomach the vast amount of information and spin taken by a ‘historian’ of some ill-repute.

It was a good friend of mine who recommended this book a while back. While I immediately downloaded it, I was not sure I wanted to tackle the subject too quickly, as anything Nazi related must be consumed in the right mindset. I am now kicking myself for having waited so long and can only hope that I do justice in promoting this book to others. Lipstadt appears to argue effectively throughout, using the trial as her narrative, rather than rehashing much of what she wrote in her original tome. She adds flavour to the piece by exploring the sentiments and off-hand comments made by the likes of Irving, without allowing herself to get too tied up in knots. While David Irving is surely not the only person to write about the fallacy of the Nazi atrocities, Lipstadt’s focus on him is understandable in his piece. She is quick to point out expression and speech freedoms that all are due, though there is surely a limit, be it defined in a court of law, legislature, or even common sense. What might have been thought to be a show trial—much like those the Nazis surely used on their concentration camp prisoners—turned into something very disturbing for all involved. With thorough chapters that convey the central tenets of the trial, as well as the opinions of both sides, the tome takes on a life of its own and forces the reader to weigh the evidence. It is only when the reader reaches the end of the piece that they can get the full impact being expressed within this book. I might need to read Lipstadt’s offending book to better understand the context of this trial, but will wait, as I am sickened by some of what was revealed within this narrative.

Kudos, Madam Lipstadt, for a compelling book that pulls no punches. In an era when #fakenews seems to be the knee-jerk reaction to that we do not like, this book resonates deeply and presents that ignorance was not borne out of the 2016 US presidential election alone.

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