Source: Review copy
Publication: 15 April 2021 from Lightning Books
My thanks to the publisher and Midas PR for an advance copy for review
When Breakfast TV host and nation’s darling, Rosie Harper, is found brutally murdered at home, suspicion falls on her spouse, formerly international football star, Danny ‘walks on water’ Mallard, now living out of the public eye as trans woman, Debbie. Not only must Debbie challenge the hard evidence against her, including her blood-drenched glove at the scene of the crime, she must also contend with the nation’s prejudices, as the trial is broadcast live, turning it into a public spectacle.
For someone trying to live their life without judgment, it might just be too much to bear. Legal duo Judith Burton and Constance Lamb are subjected to unyielding scrutiny as they strive to defend their most famous client yet.
It’s always a joy to find a new series to enjoy. I love a good legal thriller; there’s something about the drama of declamation in a courtroom that appeals to my love of words so choosing this book to review was easy.
Judith Burton is the barrister; Constance Lamb the solicitor. Theirs is an interesting relationship. They’ve worked together before and are comfortable in each other’s company. Constance is more of a sleuth than Judith, doing a lot of the leg work while Judith decides on strategy. Constance offers advice but Judith is the one who decides whether or not to accept it. The pair do seem to get on though and in this book it seems that they may be about to share more than a working brief as Constance gets close to an old friend of Judith’s.
Their case is absolutely fascinating. Debbie Mallard used to be Danny; an ex England and international footballer. Now she has transitioned and her 20 year marriage to breakfast TV darling, Rosie Harper, has ended in divorce. Debbie now coaches a junior women’s football team.
Debbie Mallard is the client. Rosie Mallard has been found brutally murdered in her home and one of Debbie’s motor bike gloves has been recovered at the scene. Not only that, but when the police come looking for Debbie, she does a runner. The case looks bleak. And it’s only going to be further complicated when the court in which the case is scheduled is chosen for a pilot of televised court trials and Constance and Judith will find their client is in the forefront of the public eye a their case is filmed and then dissected and discussed on a nightly basis on a TV programme called Court TV.
Abi Silver’s book guides us through the case without sensationalism and there’s a very strong sense of authenticity about her trial process. The addition of TV cameras does make a difference from the way those conducting the trial dress and act, to the discussions on social media which in turn lead to pile-ons, crowds demonstrating outside the courts and a focus on the trial and all those involved.
It’s a great way to highlight a real dilemma; the extent to which cameras in our courtrooms will alter behaviour and whether that, in turn, has an impact on the jury’s verdict? It’s a great debating point and Abi Silver gets the most out of it.
The decision to focus on the transgender issue also plays into a whole host of issues around bias and prejudice and feeds the idea that that it is this as much as the murder that Danny is on trial for, exacerbated again by the whole Court TV discussions which have a tendency to focus on the more sensationalist aspects of the trial as a whole.
Alongside this element is the real murder mystery, played out in the courtroom, of who did murder Rosie? Silver plays this out in a very convincing courtroom scenario where as the trial progresses we learn more about the evidence and hear from witnesses about Rosie and Danny/Debbie’s relationship.
This, together with some smart investigating by Constance, allows us to build a picture of the family and how their relationship changed when Danny decided to transition. It isn’t until the perpetrator is disclosed though, that we understand the full extent of how Rosie and Debbie’s relationship had evolved.
Verdict: A really interesting and thought provoking book that tackles sensitive and topical issues well and that leaves the reader with lots to consider even after the murder has been wrapped up. It’s a fascinating and sometimes intense book and I really got caught up in it. I’ll certainly read more in this series.
Abi Silver is an author and lawyer who grew up in Leeds in a traditional Jewish family. Watching Granada TV’s ‘Crown Court’ in between lessons led her to study Law at Girton College, Cambridge. Abi then worked in London at international law firm, Allen & Overy and at RPC, before spending five years in Israel, where her husband, Daniel, was posted. During her time there, alongside raising her three young sons, Abi completed an MBA by distance learning, learned Hebrew and pottery on the wheel and began to write fiction, usually late at night. On returning to the UK, she went back to law before quitting a permanent position in 2015 when she decided to try her hand at writing again which led to publication of The Pinocchio Brief. Based in Radlett, Hertfordshire, Abi works part-time as a legal consultant and author.