Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Guilt by Association

Marcia Clark
Guilt by Association

Mulholland Books UK, 2011

A Deputy DA Rachel Knight walks home along the dark streets of Los Angeles when he hears the sounds of fire sirens. Out of curiosity, Knight, taking advantage of an acquaintance, steps on the police cordon area to take a look. From the cheap hotel where has been a fire, the coroner’s assistants come out with two bodies, and in one of them she recognizes her colleague, also a DA Jake. When later it appears that the second victim was a young boy prostitute, Knight can not find a reason what Jake would do in a place like that with a male whore. Jake as Knight knew him was sweet and kind person. FBI starts an investigation, working a theory that it was a murder/suicide: a pedophile Jake first killed the boy and then himself. Knight does not believe in this version and, risking his ass, tries to lead an independent investigation. The main case in this novel becomes another investigation: rape of the daughter of a rich doctor, holding a few clinics in LA. After the death of Jake his working cases have been spread out to other prosecutors, and Knight gets not the easiest one of them. Knight uses help of LAPD Detective Bailey Keller in searching for criminals (rapist and Jake’s killer). Soon Knight gets more threats, and what was obvious, becomes no longer obvious.

A former prosecutor herself, Marcia Clark knows how the justice system works. Knowledge of the inner game is a huge plus of the novel. We have read many books where the detectives conduct their own investigation against orders. And in these books, everything goes quickly and smoothly. In «Guilt by Association» Clark describes in detail the danger of interference with the investigation, which FBI is involved in. Knight then actually risks not only her career but also her freedom, risking ending up behind bars.

Both cases investigated by Knight are not the easiest, with a minimum of clues, but impudence and connections help the main character and her partner press to nail one suspect after another.

Despite the fact that Knight works in «Special Trials, the small, elite unit that handled the most comlex and high-profile cases», she has to deal with not high-ranking officials and corporate owners, but with the petty criminals: bangers, drug addicts and thieves. «Guilt by Association» has a very tight plot, no rabbits out of hats.

The main character Rachel Knight is not quite an original character, though. She is hard outside and soft inside. When she sees the body of her colleague, she almost loses consciousness. Several times throughout the book, the woman barely holds tears back. At the same time, Knight shows the hardness of the decisions and actions. To achieve justice and restore the honor of the late colleague for her is more important than losing a job.

There are also a few comic moments, such as the gang leader, who flirts with the prosecutor, which almost puts murder charges on him, or a police lieutenant who lives at the expense of what he and his brother used to come up developed a popular computer game.

Sometimes the novel gets too women-ish: Clark pays too much time choosing clothes for the heroine, and chapters begin with Knight’s mornings. Actually, you can immediately get down to business without having these details.

On the cover James Ellroy's blurb suggests that it is «a damn, damn, good thriller». It is difficult to argue with it.

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