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A Criminal Defense (Harlan Donnally Series #2)

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  • Posted February 6, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    In this newest novel by Steven Gore, he takes on the dark side o

    In this newest novel by Steven Gore, he takes on the dark side of one aspect of the American criminal justice system, exposing practices including, e.g., suborned perjury, manufactured evidence, witness intimidation, and corrupt attorneys, investigators, and expert witnesses such as psychiatrists called to bolster claims of diminished capacity. And it should be stated that he does do quite a convincing job of it. (He promises that in his next book he will take on the prosecutorial side of the same coin.)

    Former San Francisco homicide detective Harlan Donnally, now 48 years old, has for the last 10 years been running a small café in Mount Shasta, just north of his old turf. But when Mark Hamlin, a prominent 55-year-old attorney, is found hanging under the Golden Gate Bridge, half naked and in a state of sexual arousal. Donnally is shortly thereafter appointed the Special Master to investigate the case and protect any attorney/client privilege that may be discovered, he is drawn back into a world he thought he had left behind. The judge makes clear that Donnally’s brief is just to “let the facts be known and the truth be seen.” As the judge advises, “Hamlin had enough enemies to make up a firing squad.” And Donnally finds that he is putting himself in harm’s way in the process: “By accepting the role as the special master to investigate Hamlin’s murder, Donnally realized that he had become a proxy for the man, the living dead, and he didn’t want to become the dead dead.”

    Donnally is an interesting protagonist. He began life, for the author, as a “bit player” in Mr. Gore’s earlier novel, “Act of Deceit,” a standalone, which evolved into the series in which this is the next entry. Equally interesting is his significant other, Dr. Janie Nguyen, the psychiatrist who had done the mandatory psych evaluation following his killing of a suspect in the line of duty after the incident in which he was shot and seriously wounded, leading in turn to his retirement. The next installment in the series should be equally engaging.

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  • Posted November 27, 2013

    This was my first read of Steven Gore and  therefore my first Ha

    This was my first read of Steven Gore and  therefore my first Harlan Donnally read.   It was definitely a well plotted mystery as I was clueless until into the last 100 pages or so.  The writing was intense and a bit overwhelming with the number of characters introduced.

    I felt the writer presented those of less than ethical character well.  I didn't feel that same representation for Donnally's character.   Other than I perceived he was ethical and faithful to his girlfriend.   I just didn't feel he came across as strong as the bad guy.  

    I did enjoy the novel, once things started to be narrowing down to who had actually committed the murders and why.

    I will definitely try another Harlan Donnally novel to see if I get a better sense of the main character.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    A Criminal Defense is as rich, gritty and twisty as was advertis

    A Criminal Defense is as rich, gritty and twisty as was advertised on the cover. It's a page turning trip to the underside of criminal law and is both a character and plot-driven story that displays how intentions get warped by both frustration with the system and by ambition and greed. We see the lawyer, Mark Hamlin, turn bad and watch Harlan Donnally try not only to find Hamlin's killer, but explain to himself why Hamlin went bad.

    As a San Franciscan, I appreciated the insight into the city, its culture and its politics for criminal justice here doesn't operate in a vacuum, from Jonestown in the 1970's to the Mission District street gangs of today.

    Gore relates the psychology of the characters to the environment that produced them with a depth rarely found in mass market fiction. This applies not just to Donnally and his growing up in Hollywood, but also to Hamlin, his assistant, his sister, detective Navarro, and the two mothers in the Bay Area. Each episode in the book, that is, each of Donnally's attempts to identify the killer, explores the connection between crime and context.

    One of the reasons I read these books is to learn things about crime and I learned many things in this book: what a Special Master is, how wiretaps are handled, how informants are used, misused, and paid off, how lawyers' trust accounts work and how they can be abused, the role of court-appointed lawyers in the system, how lawyers for the lead defendants choose and control lawyers for the lesser co-defendants, and the dance forensics experts do in order to advocate for a side in a case.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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