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Synopsis:

Valerie Solara insists that she is innocent. Charged with murdering one of her two best friends, Amanda Miller, by poisoning Amanda’s food, Valerie’s trial is just beginning. But Martin Bristol, a renowned local criminal defense attorney who is lead counsel on the case, has taken ill. His granddaughter and partner, Maggie, has asked Izzy McNeil, her best friend, to assist.

Izzy is a civil litigator, just getting back to work after a tumultuous year. She was a reporter and commentator for a legal network until she was named as a “person of interest” during the investigation into the murder of one of her colleagues. And just two months before their wedding, her fiancee, Sam Hollings, vanished. Now Izzy has a new boyfriend several years her junior, Theo, and she’s happy to finally be getting back to work in a courtroom. But Izzy is a civil litigator, not a criminal defense attorney, and she does not yet understand the nuances and protocols of criminal defense work.

One of the tenets Izzy struggles with is the notion that a criminal defense attorney does not need to know — and frequently does not want to know — whether his/her client is guilty. After all, as Maggie explains, it is their job to see that Valerie gets the fair and impartial trial to which she is Constitutionally entitled. A criminal defense attorney must always bear in mind that the prosecution bears the burden of demonstrating the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. So long as an attorney does not put a client on the stand knowing that the client is going to offer perjured testimony, the real question of guilt or innocence is usually moot.

But as the trial proceeds and more information about Valerie’s background, her daughter, Lila, and Zavy, the victim’s husband, comes to light, the more uneasy Izzy becomes. In addition to Sam, Izzy’s father, long presumed dead, has also re-entered her life recently. Now she has convinced him to put his experience as a profiler to work by teaming up with Mayburn, a private investigator, to help with Valerie’s defense.

Review:

Author
is a tautly constructed, fast-paced legal thriller that will keep readers guessing about Valerie Solara’s innocence until the very end. Author Laura Caldwell is a litigator turned law professor who ensures that both the substantive and procedural aspects of the criminal case at the heart of the drama are accurately portrayed. Izzy’s professional challenges are juxtaposed against her personal turmoil about her relationships with Sam and Theo. Adding to her consternation are her conflicted feelings about her father and the impact his return is having upon her mother, who is remarried to Spence. The result being a thoroughly engrossing and enjoyable story.

Izzy is a bigger-than-life character who has experienced some bigger-than-life problems over the course of the past year-and-a-half. She and Sam were very happy, but as happens with many couples, their impending wedding preparations began overshadowing their relationship. Caldwell turns a stereotype on its ear: It was Izzy who was uncomfortable with the large wedding Sam desired. And for reasons she only later discovered, Sam disappeared two months before the ceremony. When he returned, they attempted to put their life together back on track, but could not. So they parted and Izzy has been seeing handsome young entrepreneur Theo. But Sam has reconnected with Izzy, forcing her to reevaluate her choices.

Further complicating her life is her father’s sudden reappearance after many years. Izzy, her mother, and brother all believed he was dead and, in fact, her mother, who has a long history of depression, found happiness with and married Spence. Learning that her father has been watching over her from a distance for quite some time initially unnerves Izzy and, in combination with Sam’s announcement, forces Izzy to examine the way she interacts with the men in her life. It also changes her mother and causes Spence consternation.

Izzy is earnest and likable, her devotion to the law never in question. Like any good litigator, she has developed impeccable instincts about both people and legal theories. Her latest adventures test both as she struggles to adapt to criminal defense practice, taking cues from her seasoned friend, Maggie. Izzy is convinced that there is more to Valerie’s claim of innocence than is readily apparent and determined to solve the mystery of Amanda’s murder, even though Maggie insists that the truth is not what they need to focus on. Because Izzy is so naturally inquisitive and committed to knowing whether she is defending a woman who actually committed murder, she enlists her father and Mayburn to assist her. And what she learns is fascinating.

Caldwell alternates her narration between Izzy’s first-person account of her experiences and third-person descriptions of unfolding plot developments. It is a highly effective technique that enhances reader interest in the various mysteries. Izzy is surrounded by an intriguing cast of supporting characters, including Martin Bristol, a man who has enjoyed a brilliant legal career but has suddenly been transformed from a vibrant, sharp-witted elder statesman of the courtroom to a feeble, befuddled old man. Is age to blame or is there more to the sudden crisis that has forced Martin to step down from trying Valerie’s case? And what will become of Spence and his marriage to Izzy’s mother? Is her sudden sense of empowerment a threat to the happy status quo they have enjoyed for so long?

Of course, the two centerpieces of the story — Izzy’s romance with Sam and the question of Valerie’s guilt or innocence — keep readers focused until all of the shocking details are revealed. In Claim of Innocence, Caldwell deftly balances the professional and personal entanglements of her protagonist, inserting surprising plot twists and the revelation of dark secrets. Claim of Innocence is actually Izzy McNeil’s fourth appearance in a Caldwell novel. Her trilogy, Red Hot Lies, Red Blooded Murder, and Red, White and Dead, also feature Izzy McNeil. Claim of Innocence was my first experience reading Caldwell’s work, but it certainly will not be my last. I highly recommend Claim of Innocence.

I read Claim of Innocence in conjunction with the 2011 Read ‘n’ Review, Outdo Yourself, and Fall Into Reading 2011 Reading Challenges.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one copy of Claim of Innocence free of charge from the author in conjunction with Media Muscle book campaigns. I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own. This disclosure complies with 16 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



Enter to Win a Copy of Claim of Innocence

One lucky reader, selected at random, will receive a copy of Claim of Innocence, generously provided by the author.



Entries will be accepted through Thursday, October 6, 2011, at 12:01 a.m. (Pacific time)!


29 Comments

  1. I’m not familiar with this author but I love legal thrillers so I’ll have togive her a try. Thanks for the review – it sounds right up my alley!

  2. Marjorie

    I have never read a book by this author and would love to start with this one.

  3. sounds like a book I would really enjoy reading

  4. I have not read any of Laura Caldwell’s books, but Claim of Innocence sounds like a great read! I love a book with thrills and twists. 🙂

  5. I haven’t read any book by Laura before but I really like the premise for this one.

  6. Stephanie

    I have not read anything by her yet, but I would love to start!

  7. I haven’t read any of her books, but this one certainly sounds exciting!

  8. I have never read any of Laura Caldwell’s books but the story looks like a good one.

  9. always fun to read some criminal law fiction as an escape from my criminal law reality. 🙂

  10. Judy Cox

    Laura Caldwell is a new author to me, but her books do look good. I will check her out. I enjoy finding new authors and new books!!

    Judy
    magnoias_1[at]msn[dot]com

  11. Thank you for the giveaway! I have not read Laura Caldwell’s books. Thanks for introducing them to me.

    jbronderblogs at aol dot com

  12. Denise Z

    I have not read Laura Caldwell’s work, but Claim of Innocence sounds awesome. Thank you for the review and giveaway opportunity 🙂

  13. Carol Wong

    🙂 Wow! I love legal thrillers and one sounds perfect!

    CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

  14. No I havent had the opportunity to read any of her books yet

  15. Lisa Garrett

    I have never read any of this authors books but would love to.

  16. Sherry S.

    No I haven’t read any of her books yet but this one sounds really good.

  17. mamabunny13

    I have not read any of her books yet.
    mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

  18. I haven’t but I do have the first three in this series on my TBR shelf (it use to be a pile but has grown).

  19. Sherry Bercu

    I have not read any of Laura Caldwell’s books and now I am very interested in reading 😆

  20. I have not read any of her previous work but I would love to.

  21. I haven’t read any of her books but I would like to!

  22. Anita Yancey

    I haven’t read any of her other books. But I would like to read this one.

  23. I have not yet read any books by this author, but I do love thrillers!

    darlenesbooknook at gmail dot com

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