Due Process (Joe Dillard #9), by Scott Pratt

Eight stars

Scott Pratt is back with another gritty legal thriller, the ninth in the Joe Dillard series. This piece is sure to impress series fans with more legal antics that only Dillard to justify in the cutthroat world of Tennessee law. After being picked-up by the police, Sheila Self professes that her intoxication is related to being drugged and gang-raped at a party held by the local college football team. A stripper and escort, Self explains that she was hired to perform at a house and was forceable attacked in the washroom. The authorities begin an investigation into the case as defence attorney Joe Dillard watches from the sidelines, refusing to become involved for personal reasons. However, when three black players are fingered as the culprits by Self, whose identification is nudged along by a tunnel-visioned investigator, Dillard agrees to meet with one young man and learns that the evidence is not only flimsy, but that the man before him could not be guilty. Dillard’s intuition is such that he will do everything he can to help his client, feeling that this is not a ‘sports team gone wild’ case as much as one divided along racial lines. With East Tennessee still teetering on the edge of racial acceptance, Dillard is sure that no matter what the evidence shows, race will become a key factor. Can he help his client get a fair trial? Will a young black man be safe when accused of raping a white woman? How will Dillard balance a trial with a wife whose cancer is back and getting worse? Pratt explores these and many other situations within the pages of this fabulously crafted novel. Series fans will be so pleased to see Joe Dillard back and should be ready to learn much. Also recommended to those who love a quick paced legal thriller, though beginning at the start of this well-paced series may shed additional light on the nuances woven into this novel.

I have long been a fan of Scott Pratt and the Joe Dillard series, which mixes legal matters alongside life in the southern United States. Pratt is able to convey a highly entertaining story for the reader, full of interesting characters, as well as legal matters torn from the headlines, but with a twist. Joe Dillard, who has seen much transformation throughout the series, returns with even more passion, both for his work and the family he has worked hard to keep together. His dedication to his wife is second to none and Pratt is able to mould his protagonist into being a highly compassionate man while also ready to cut the throat of anyone who crosses his path. The novel brings a number of returning characters into the story, each with their own development, though some advance more than others. The one-offs, as with many novels, prove to propel the plot and make a mark, though not usually indelible, throughout. The pace of the narrative is such that the reader loses themselves in the legal and medical matters, as well as the social commentary offered to depict the ongoing racial divide in Tennessee and surrounding area. Pratt does not pull any punches, painting Eastern Tennessee as being anything but inclusive, though it is necessary to bring his point home and the reader should see this as being more than a mere soapbox rant. Fans of the series are surely pleased to see Dillard back, on a brief hiatus to allow Pratt’s development of another series, equally enthralling. The banter within this series is well-constructed and keeps the reader from getting too bogged down in legal matters. I hope Pratt has many more novels in this series, as Joe Dillard does not appear to be losing steam whatsoever.

Kudos, Mr. Pratt, for another stellar novel. A quick read, but surely memorable and the perfect addition to any reading list!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons