I don’t usually like courtroom dramas, or at least I haven’t got a list of ones that worked especially well for me. Beyond To Kill A Mockingbird, of course. Can’t beat that one. I do read such novels, but they often don’t stay with me for very long. I couldn’t recount the plot of any of Grisham novel, for example.
Baine Kerr is an attorney who has written two novels. When I read Harmful Intent I knew right away that I was in the hands of a wonderful writer, somebody with an ear for language and the ability to make characters come alive as they moved through the story. So I went out and got his second novel, Wrongful Death, immediately.
Wrongful Death is different in tone from Harmful Intent, and it took me a little longer to get into it. I had to stop myself from reading quickly and really concentrate on the first ten pages. I have rarely invested my reading time so well. Wrongful Death is about things as diverse as personal injury law and the Bosnian war-crime tribunals, mother-daughter relationships and forensic pathology. And Kerr pulls it all together with such flair, you can only sit back in amazement and admiration.
The final section of the novel takes place in court, and I doubt anyone will ever write a better trial sequence. What is best about this novel, though, is Kerr’s absolutely wonderful rendering of three very different women, each so clearly drawn and so distinct from the other that you hear their voices without trying. The next time I hear somebody claiming that men can’t write women, I’ll hand them this book.
Wrongful Death deals with terrible tragedy, human weakness and grief, but it is, in the end, hopeful. It has my highest recommendation.