The Last Alibi (Jason Kolarich #4), by David Ellis

Eight stars

While my exploration of David Ellis’ series starring Jason Kolarich has come to an end, it surely did not wane with this fourth novel. A story in which Kolarich finds himself in the crosshairs of a killer is only made better when our protagonist is tied up in knots and left as the accused in a murder trial. After a series of highly troubling events that left Jason Kolarich addicted to pain medication, he tries to hide all this from those around him. However, he is caught up by a new courtroom stenographer, Alexa Himmel, with whom he is soon in a heated relationship. Kolarich is approached by a man who says that he might soon be framed for the murder of a woman and wants advice. A new challenge for Kolarich, but one he is happy to decipher for his hourly fee. It would seem that James Drinker feels that someone is out to pin a number of murders on him, leaving Kolarich to help him creat an alibi that will be useful should the authorities pay him a visit. However, with each subsequent visit by Drinker, Kolarich comes to feel that his client may be a serial killer who is using attorney-client privilege to all but confess. Ready to break all the rules and ensure Drinker is taken into custody, Kolarich violates the state bar’s ethics and points the police in his direction, all while distancing himself from his law firm and falling down the rabbit hole of addiction and a trust with Alexa. However, even Alexa has her limits and she soon creates a situation where Kolarich chooses to keep her at bay. Their rough patch is documented in texts, emails, and voicemail messages. When Alexa turns up dead in his apartment, Kolarich is sure Drinker is behind it, but has no concrete proof. This game of cat and mouse gets harder when Kolarich is put on trial for the murder, forcing his partner, Shauna Tasker, to show off her legal skills. Kolarich is fighting for his life, while the elusive James Drinker hides in the shadows and uses the legal advice he received to exact bloody revenge. Might Jason Kolarich finally have met his match? Ellis does a formidable job with this piece, which keeps the reader guessing in this multi time period narrative. Recommended to those who have loved the series, as well as the reader who needs a legal thriller of the highest caliber.

David Ellis is an author I should have discovered long ago. He keeps his story strong and his characters ever-evolving in a genre that is so crowded with writers these days. As the series reader will know, Jason Kolarich is an evolving character whose backstory and character development never takes a break with Ellis in the driver’s seat. From the loss of his family through to some of his less than stellar relationship choices, Kolarich has always been able to use his gritty work ethic to rise to the occasion. However, with this piece, the tables are turned and Kolarich must rely on others as his life hangs in the balance. While Shauna Tasker has been a secondary character throughout, she peeks through to get a stronger role in this novel, receiving her own narrative perspective. This gives the reader additional first-hand information about the protagonist and some backstory that might have been missed with Kolarich off-hand comments in past novels. The handful of other key characters help propel the story forward and keeps the reader full enthralled with the progress of all things related to the piece. Ellis does well with this story, painting the characters into some interesting corners before pushing out and weaving together perhaps the best story to date. There is no point in the book when there narrative wanes and the mix of chapter lengths works well to give the reader something they can thoroughly enjoy. While it seems David Ellis has moved to working in collaboration with a popular author, I would love to see more of this series or read other standalone work, as this was a wonderful treat for me to discover!

Kudos, Mr. Ellis, for a series that is surely binge-worthy. I will be back for more of your work as I can get my hands on it.

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

The Wrong Man (Jason Kolarich #3), by David Ellis

Eight stars

As my journey through the standalone work of David Ellis continues, I remain highly impressed with all he has to offer. His pieces shine and keep me wanting more, as they explore the legal world with a peppering of current events to keep the plot even thicker. Jason Kolarich has earned his reputation for being a gritty lawyer, mainly because he will go to the mat for his client, no matter their plight. When he is approached by a woman seeking help for her nephew, Kolarich is intrigued, but cannot fully commit quite yet. Tom Stoller is a former Army veteran who is now living on the streets. He is accused of killing Kathy Rubinkowski with a shot to the head. He was found with her belongings on his person and was apologizing for the act, an all but certain ticket to conviction. However, Kolarich sees a great deal of PTSD in Stoller and hears that he was involved in a shooting of a young girl while overseas. Could this be plaguing him after all this time? While Kolarich agrees to take the defence, he is visited by someone with ties to the local mob, asking some highly hypothetical questions. Kolarich is also coming out of his shell on a social level, creating ties with a woman who could prove more useful than a romantic tryst for him. Unable to push the trial into a continuance, Kolarich seeks to pry into the PTSD, but his client clams up and will be of no assistance with that. However, some background on the victim shows that her work at a law firm had her wondering about representation surrounding some highly intriguing substances, things that raise many a red flag for Kolarich. Might Kathy Rubinkowski have been killed for what she knew, leaving Tom Stoller as a scapegoat? Working as hard as he can, Kolarich seeks to convince others of this theory, even as the ADA seeks a slam dunk conviction, to no avail. In the background, something is going on that could make the trial and any verdict matter less than a hill of beans. A great piece that pulls on the heartstrings as well as keeping the reader fully committed. Ellis does so well with this and I’d recommend it to all who love gritty legal thrillers.

David Ellis is an author whose individual work I should have discovered long ago. His attention to detail and ability to pull the reader into the middle of it all cannot be missed. Jason Kolarich remains an integral part of the books and leads the story throughout. His grit and determination help him defend his clients as best he can, without getting caught up in the minutiae of their lives. His legal antics remain aboveboard, but tend to push the case in some interesting directions. He is not afraid to use his silver tongue in court and then pull out some needed fists to combat injustice as he sees it. Other characters help to add depth to the novel in ways that are highly effective. I found the story taking many turns and the strong characters made it all the more effective as the journey continued. The story took on some interesting topics that I feel Ellis handled well, without losing the legal angle that makes these novels so much fun to read. Layering situations and plot lines atop one another makes for some great storytelling and has me reaching for the final book in this series.

Kudos, Mr. Ellis, for more great legal writing. I will do my best to forge into the final novel right away.

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

Breach of Trust (Jason Kolarich #2), by David Ellis

Eight stars

Continuing my journey through the standalone work of David Ellis, I can see that he is able to hold his own, not needing a popular author to prop him up (which is how I have read his work in the past, a collaborative effort). This legal thriller is another example that there are gripping series right under my nose that I should be discovering and devouring. Jason Kolarich was surely a complex character in the opening novel and suffered much. As this book begins, the reader gets some more backstory on the case of State Senator Hector Almundo and corrupt practices that led to the death of a store proprietor. This was also around the time that Kolarich lost his wife and daughter in a freak auto accident. Saddled with this, Kolarich’s spiral into depression saw him try to isolate himself. However, he has the legal spark inside him and found a way to dust himself off. When the wife of one witness from the Almundo case comes to see him, asking that he help find out why her husband was killed, Kolarich is interested, though he is not sure if it will open a Pandora’s Box best left locked. Almundo is so thankful for the exoneration that he helps Kolarich score a lucrative job vetting state contracts in which kickbacks are going directly to the governor’s campaign coffers. While Kolarich is keen to stay on the up and up, someone alters his memo and the US Attorney is prepared to charge him in the scheme. However, there is a way for him to save his hide, by acting as a confidential informant and offering up bigger fish. Kolarich agrees, somewhat hesitantly, and begins working on the inside, only to discover this is a highly dangerous venture. In an operation that sees Kolarich climb the rungs of power within the state, he discovers that there is more to the Almundo case than he thought and that targets may be tied to a ruthless man in the governor’s mansion, with many around him equally as dirty. If only Kolarich can get what he needs to clear himself, and get answers for a grieving widow as well! Ellis has done it again, pulling me in and making me want more. Recommended to those who love legal thrillers that are anything but cookie cutter cases, as well as the reader who likes a side of gritty in their books.

David Ellis does so well on his own, though I can see what some of his more recent work is tied to a popular author, where he can still write and ensure some higher royalties as well. Ellis crafts strong legal stories with plot lines that never stop. Jason Kolarich continues to be a worthwhile protagonist with a past that is more thoroughly revealed in the opening section of this book. His grit and determination emerge throughout as he puts himself on the line to help others (while trying to stay out of prison himself) and he never stops playing all the angles. While he may not always make the best choices, he stands by them and works himself out of the corners into which he paints himself. The reader learns more about his post-family life with a law partner and a practice that is mildly successful, alongside a peppering of other characters whose presence serve the purpose of the narrative. More grit than courtroom acumen in this piece, Ellis and Kolarich both exemplify the darker and more troubling side of the law and legal antics. The reader encounters many writing flavours throughout, blended to make a stellar final product. Never losing momentum, Ellis offers the reader something they can enjoy, as they contemplate reaching for the next novel in the series.

Kudos, Mr. Ellis, for another great thriller. I am bingeing the series, so I will grab for the next book right now!

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