There is big a difference between crime and detective novels and courtroom dramas. In one, the action takes place on the streets; and in the other, the main story takes place in the courtroom.  HOA Wire represents the latter, and will appeal to fans of Grisham and any other writer who spins a solid yarn based on courtroom drama and realistic experiences.

While it’s Book Three in the Brent Marks legal thriller series, newcomers will find it quickly accessible. It revolves around the murder of a homeowner’s association president, where lawyer Brent Marks finds himself standing square in the center of a maelstrom of puzzles in which every town resident is a potential suspect and no easy answers are apparent.

Readers aren’t bludgeoned over the head with clues that are obvious leads, and they aren’t teased by the presence of a protagonist who might know the answers, either. Brent Marks is well-educated and trained, but is just as puzzled as readers – and it’s his process of discovery that succeeds in creating an involving story of just how a crime is solved.

Key to an unusually successful approach are the tidbits of information about courtroom proceedings which are added not just to embellish a tale, but to provide realistic atmosphere and lend clues on how decisions are made: “Brent was sure that the jury had no doubt that the urine sample tested positive for ricin, but the judge instructed them that no urine test was in evidence, and that they could not consider the testimony about it. It was a good win for Brent, but not enough to win the case. You could be sure that the jury would be thinking about the positive urine test when they deliberated, whether or not they discussed it amongst themselves.”

Witnesses, cross examinations, and instances where even the professional lawyer makes errors are all brought out and considered in the bigger picture of crime and punishment processes, where judges can influence outcomes and approaches: “Sorry’s not good enough. When something’s broken, sorry can never bring it back. Now I know your case is important, and that you’re zealous in your defense of your client, but I don’t want to declare a mistrial in this case. So please, don’t make any more inappropriate comments.

The obvious prerequisite for enjoying this approach is affection for courtroom dramas, because this is the centerpiece, here. Readers with such an interest will find HOA Wire successfully weaves crime and courtroom to such a degree that the unexpected conclusion comes as both a successful, logical outcome and as a real surprise. With its real insights on HOA processes and neighbor disputes, HOA Wire is a deft exploration of attorney-client ethics on the line, and is crime/courtroom writing at its best.

D. Donovan, Midwest Book Review

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