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by Robert Dugoni
Touchstone, April 2009
384 pages
ISBN: 1416591001

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

David Sloane is a powerful attorney with an excellent track record who specializes in cases involving wrongful deaths. Just as he has finished winning a multi-million dollar case, he is approached by a referred client regarding the death of her husband who died while serving with the National Guard in Iraq. She wants to sue the government because she believes that her husband's bulletproof armor failed to do its job. Unfortunately there is not much that Sloane can do. The US government is protected by a Supreme Court decision, the Feres Doctrine, that states that the United States is not liable for injuries sustained by soldiers on active duty, even as the result of negligence of others in the armed forces. Sloane is not a man so easily deterred, and he's always up for a challenge. He will find a way to help his new client. Unfortunately, there is more to the story as persons unknown threaten him and his family. Sloane did not get to where he is by giving up easily. He will put up a fight and do right for his client regardless of the cost.

The concept here is interesting and serves as a good way to learn a bit regarding military law and the Feres Doctrine, but it does not work well as an action or legal thriller. There are too many pieces involved inside the story and each one is dealt independently from each other - his investigation, the threats against his family, and the opposing arguments in the legal issue. Readers figure that it all goes together since they are all taking place in the same book but it just seems disjointed. Each issue is dealt separately. It is almost like a video game in that readers can only get to the next level in the game only after all the elements in the previous level have been achieved. One cannot move forward until the last level is fully complete. It is how I felt while reading the novel.

The other issue is that the author does not play fair with the readers regarding the progression of the story. There are unexpected flashbacks; characters appearing out of nowhere that bring an important piece to the puzzle, unconvincing plot twists, and several unnecessary contrivances (such as the behavior of the dead serviceman's children) whose only purpose is to pull heartstrings. It might make an interesting movie of the week, but as a legal thriller, it falls short.

Reviewed by Angel L. Soto, April 2009

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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