The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar.
Blood Defense by Marcia Clark is the first in a new series. While she is well known as the prosecutor of O. J. Simpson she has also become a bestselling author with the Rachel Knight series about a Los Angeles prosecutor. With Blood Defense she is changing gears, now writing about an ambitious and hard-charging criminal defense attorney. Although having each series main character polar opposites, readers will still enjoy the same writing style: sarcastic wit, believable characters, a great murder mystery, multi-layered plot twists, and an understanding of the nuances around a courtroom.
When asked if she would face the same obstacles today with the Simpson trial, Clark responded, “Racism, domestic violence, and sexism are still issues. They are still very much on the table. Would he get convicted today if tried? A lot would depend on the judge and the nature of the jury. There was a very bad ruling that allowed racial epithets to be introduced as evidence when there was no basis for it. Mark Fuhrman did not have any opportunity to plant the glove so it should not have mattered if he was a racist or not. If he could not have done it there is no relevance to bringing it in.”
Furthermore, she felt, “Race really skewed it. But the ultimate factors were a combination of race and celebrity. If he had not been famous and was just a regular guy who happened to be black he would have been convicted. If he had been a white guy who was famous he would have been convicted. This combination presented an unassailable obstacle that became clearer every day of the trial. We watched the jury fail to respond to anything we said, which was why the verdict was no surprise for us. The jury basically rejected us from day one. It was horrible.”
Although known as a prosecutor, Clark started her career in private practice as a defense attorney. She brings her past experience to the pages with an excellent insight. In describing the daily routine of a criminal lawyer she allows readers to understand how far someone could go in bending the rules. What is very interesting is the behind the scenes account of procedures, as well as the workings of the jail system, informants, and courtroom antics.
Her experiences helped her write about “the interesting moral and ethical wrinkles to riding the defense side because a defense attorney's goal is solely to defend the client. The prosecutor has to make sure that it's a fair trial; the defense has no obligation. I thought of what Fred Goldman told me about Ron being the second and forgotten victim, ‘what about Ron, it is not all about Nicole.’ I am sure this had something to do with me wanting to write the disparity and treatment between my characters Chloe and Paige. Yet, at the time I was writing this I was not thinking about Ron. My life experiences and case works creep into my books whether I am aware of the connection or not.”
The plot begins with criminal defense attorney, Samantha Brinkman, struggling to make a name for herself until she lands a “dream” case. It is a high profile double-murder case in which one of the victims is a beloved TV star, and the defendant is a decorated veteran LAPD detective. With the aid of her office manager, Michelle, and investigator Alex, Brinkman must use everything she has to spin the publicity. Already facing an uphill battle, she pulls out all the stops in her quest to uncover evidence that will clear the detective and his name.
Samantha and police detective Dale Pearson are very well developed characters. Readers will root for her to win the case and prove Dale’s innocence. As with Rachel Knight, Samantha is portrayed as a tough, spunky, and intelligent woman. But unlike Rachel, Samantha has a dark past that makes her vulnerable at times, and she will go to any lengths, including breaking rules she does not agree with, to win the case.
Blood Defense is a great suspense novel with a fun dose of humor and a lot of twists. Readers will enjoy learning more about Samantha as the series progresses. Anyone wanting a riveting murder mystery with realistic characters and an understanding of the routines of a defense attorney should read this book.