I picked up this book because I was in the mood for a legal thriller, and it was just what I was looking for even though it was totally different from any other courtroom drama I’ve read. For one, it’s told completely in the first person, in the voice of a defendant on trial for murder. Most legal thrillers take the multiple perspectives approach, showing the players on both sides of the case, so I was curious to see how the author would pull off such a limited narrative. Trust me--it totally works!
Added bonus: the narrator’s voice was completely new to me: a young British man accused of murdering a gang member. I didn’t realize until reading this book that I have always thought of inner-city gangs as an American thing, so this book broadened my perspective and made me eager to learn more about urban British culture as it is today, as opposed to the Downton Abbey-ish British culture represented in most of the books and movies I’ve encountered. I loved all the slang and the cadence of the defendant’s words as he argued his innocence.
The text of the novel itself is made up of the defendant’s closing statement to the jury. He has abruptly fired his lawyer and says he wants to tell the whole truth of what happened. His lawyer advised him to leave some things out when he testified, but the narrator now thinks if he can lay himself bare and help the jury get to know him and his life, they’ll come to believe in his innocence. This structure was super fun for me as a reader--let’s be honest, who doesn’t love judging people? No spoilers here, but I will say that by the end, while I may not have bought every detail of his story, I definitely felt like the character had become a real person to me, guilty or not.