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13 September 2013

Mark Gimenez: Color of Law

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Top class emotional and ethical legal thriller
This is the best legal thriller I have read this year. It is an emotional story of legal, ethical and personal dilemmas faced by a young and successful lawyer, written by someone who has been a partner in a major law firm and has run his own small business who gives an edge of real authenticity to the story.

A. Scott Fenney's Mother always said that he had a gift but he didn't really understand what it was. Before bed  she would read a chapter of To Kill a Mocking Bird  and say `Scotty, be like Atticus. Be a lawyer. Do good.'. Scott  was always a great achiever, topping class at law school with an fantastic record of success on the football field. He was recruited by a top legal firm in Dallas and soon became their youngest and most successful performer. He believed that his gift had made him rich, and had given him a beautiful wife and daughter, a million dollar house, a Ferrari and designer clothes.

When he joined the the firm his boss told him "Scotty, the color of law isn't black-and-white, it's green! The rule of law is money - money rules! Money makes the law and the law protects the money! And lawyers protect the people with money!" In following this creed Scott no longer recognized the difference between making a deal and compromising his integrity. It was also very clear that the color of his law practice was also white, not black or latino.

One day this was tested when a Federal Judge appointed him to defend a black hooker, Shawanda Jones, a heroin addict accused of killing the wayward son of a Federal Senator. As this was pro-bono work Scott's first reaction is to hire a cheaper defense lawyer so that he could keep up the billable hours but Shawanda was adamant during pre-trial that he should be her lawyer.  She also asked him to make sure that her 9 year old daughter Pajamae living alone in a dangerous part of Dallas was kept safe during the trial. By taking the case and looking after Pajamae the color of Scott's law had changed from green to black.

From then on Scott is faced with a dilemma when pressure is placed on him by powerful people to drop the case, pressure that could kill his successful career. Scott soon finds out that the the pressure isn't a game and he is forced to understand that life should really be about truth and justice, not money or power or color, and that only his real gift can save his defendant's life.

Gimenez is a skilful author who gears up the tension, not only with the pressures on Scott's professional and personal life but also in how he can defend someone who looks guilty but continues to plead her innocence. It was a skilfully crafted emotional roller coaster which continued to the last page.

By chance I read the sequel "The Accused" first (also a great legal thriller) and I took a long time to get around to reading this book because the sequel told me a lot about what happened earlier. If you have not read any books by Mark Gimenez (now one of my favourite authors) I strongly recommend that you read this book first - you will not be disappointed.

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