Confessions of an Innocent Man

Confessions of an Innocent Man

by David R. Dow


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“Every person wrongfully convicted of a crime at some point dreams of getting revenge against the system.  In Confessions of an Innocent Man, the dream comes true and in a spectacular way.”—John Grisham, New York Times bestselling author of The Reckoning 

A thrillingly suspenseful debut novel and a fierce howl of rage that questions the true meaning of justice.

Rafael Zhettah relishes the simplicity and freedom of his life. He is the owner and head chef of a promising Houston restaurant, a pilot with open access to the boundless Texas horizon, and a bachelor, content with having few personal or material attachments that ground him. Then, lightning strikes. When he finds Tieresse—billionaire, philanthropist, sophisticate, bombshell—sitting at one of his tables, he also finds his soul mate and his life starts again. And just as fast, when she is brutally murdered in their home, when he is convicted of the crime, when he is sentenced to die, it is all ripped away. But for Rafael Zhettah, death row is not the end. It is only the beginning. Now, with his recaptured freedom, he will stop at nothing to deliver justice to those who stole everything from him.

This is a heart-stoppingly suspenseful, devastating, page-turning debut novel. A thriller with a relentless grip that wants you to read it in one sitting. David R. Dow has dedicated his life to the fight against capital punishment—to righting the horrific injustices of the death penalty regime in Texas. He delivers the perfect modern parable for exploring our complex, uneasy relationships with punishment and reparation in a terribly unjust world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781524743888
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/09/2019
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 142,237
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

David R. Dow is the Cullen Professor at the University of Houston Law Center and the Rorschach Visiting Professor of History at Rice University. A graduate of Rice and Yale, Dow's areas of expertise include constitutional law and theory, contract law, and death penalty law. Working with students in his death penalty clinic, Dow has represented more than one hundred death-row inmates during their state and federal appeals. He is also the founder and director of the Texas Innocence Network.

He lives in Houston and Park City, Utah, with his wife, Katya, their son, Lincoln, and their dogs, Delano and Soul.

Reading Group Guide

1. Rafael is the narrator of this book, so we only get his perspective on the story. Do you think his version of events is reliable?

2. Rafael calls Tieresse his love and soul mate. With her permission, he sleeps with other women. Is he unfaithful? Why or why not?

3. How much do you think Rafael’s race and background had to do with the judge’s readiness to convict him? Does his case remind you of anything you’ve read about in real life?

4. Of everyone who had a hand in Rafael’s wrongful conviction, why do you think Rafael feels compelled to take revenge on these two judges? Do you think his behavior is justified?

5. Tieresse’s son, Reinhardt, has a complicated relationship with Rafael. How does it evolve and change throughout the novel?

6. Author David R. Dow is the founder and director of the Texas Innocence Network and has years of experience working with death-row inmates. How do you think his background informs the story? Did anything about Rafael’s experience on death row surprise you?

7. Rafael’s block-mate, Águila, tells him “Some victories cain’t be measured in conventional terms.” Their friendship has a profound impact on Rafael. What do you think he learns from Águila?

8. Why does Rafael spend so much time talking with Moss and Stream? Does he hope to find some type of absolution in their conversations? Can he forgive himself for what he’s done?

9. Before our story begins, Reinhardt tells Tieresse, “the difference between the life you have and the life you envision is equal to the distance between perfection and reality.” How is that idea referenced throughout the novel? Do you believe Rafael makes peace with the way his life has turned out?

10. How should we interpret the book’s final scene? Is it clear that Rafael dies? And, regardless, is the message that justice has been served? Why or why not?

11. Forgiveness, justice, love, and revenge: Of all the themes in Confessions of an Innocent Man, which do you think represents the ultimate message of the book?

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Confessions of an Innocent Man: A Novel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Momma_Becky 8 months ago
While I wouldn't necessarily classify this one as a thriller, it certainly grabbed hold and held me in its clutches. I'll admit that I was a bit confused about the shape of the story when I started, but the more I read, the more I wanted to read. We've all heard the stories about a person serving years on death row or even being executed when new evidence is found to refute their guilt. Confessions of an Innocent Man takes that a step further - okay, maybe a mile further with a revenge plot that is nothing short of meticulous in its detail. But first, we get Rafael's story, what brought him to death row and the revenge he so desperately needed. Now, here's where my earlier mentioned confusion came in. Rafael is an interesting character, but I kept wondering where it was all going. Nevertheless, even if I had never gotten to what I thought was coming from reading the blurb, I still enjoyed Rafael's story, his early days with the love of his life, his anguish over losing her, his bitter fury when he's found guilty, and finally, his coming to grips with his circumstances as he tries to figure out the world of death row for an inmate. In the end, I felt like the point to this story, the place it was all leading up to, was the man Rafael became after his release and how he decided to exact his revenge. Of course, the recipients of that revenge also make for some intriguing food for thought. The writing is compelling and the pacing is steady for most of the book. The story does lag somewhat in the second half, which is the only real criticism from me. So, while I didn't find the thriller I was looking for, I did find suspense and a gripping story. An excellent debut from David R Dow, and one that has put him on my radar.
Anonymous 11 months ago
nfam 11 months ago
A Love Affair Leads to Death Row Rafael Zhettah thought he had it made. He was the owner and head chef of a Houston Restaurant that was getting good reviews, and he was married to the woman of his dreams. Although older, Tieresse was his soul mate. Then the unbelievable happens. Tieresse is murdered in their home and Rafael’s prints are on the murder weapon. He protests his innocence, but the jury doesn’t believe him, and he ends up on death row. This is the story of that experience and Rafael’s revenge. This is a gripping thriller with plenty of action. It also tells the story of how death row inmates are treated. It’s not a pretty story. The characters from guards to inmates are well drawn, but it’s hard to read about what happened to Rafael, an innocent man. David Dow, the author, has been an activist in the fight against capital punishment. He uses this book to highlight the injustices of the death penalty in Texas. Besides being a thriller, the book encourages you to think about the issues of punishment and the extent to which the legal system itself perpetuates injustice. I recommend this book. It’s worth reading for the plot, but it will also make you think. I received this book from Penguin Random House for this review.