PROTAGONIST: Rachel Clark, prosecuting attorney
SETTING: Los Angeles
SERIES: #2 of 2
Rachel Knight, a prosecuting attorney in the Special Trials Unit in LA, is in court on a routine case when she becomes incensed by the shoddy work being done by prosecutor Brandon Averill in a case involving the homicide of a homeless man. When the case is dismissed, she decides to take it on herself—what if the defendant is guilty and is being let off because Averill completely botched the prosecution?
Rachel partners with police detective and close friend Bailey Keller to figure out what happened. Although there is some video evidence, it isn’t clear who stabbed the victim, Simon Bayer. Immediately before his death, Bayer had grabbed at a woman who subsequently disappeared. Bailey and Rachel discover that the woman was the wife of Simon’s late brother, an LAPD cop who had also been murdered. Simon was convinced that Lilah killed Zack Bayer and had set out to prove her guilty, but his own mental health deteriorated rapidly during his quest.
Rachel Knight was introduced in GUILT BY ASSOCIATION, a book which I thoroughly enjoyed. I am happy to say that Clark is equally successful in GUILT BY DEGREES. The plot is nicely complex, and Clark’s writing style is very accessible. Her real forte is in character development. Rachel is a woman who has a lot of baggage as a result of her witnessing the abduction of her older sister when she was a child, a fact that she has kept hidden from even her closest friends. When her significant other, Lietutenant Graden Hales, mentions the situation, it destroys their relationship. Watching Rachel learn to trust others with this most intimate part of herself was very moving. The interaction between Rachel and her close friends was very effectively depicted.
My only complaint with the book, and the reason that it did not receive an “A” rating from me, was that Clark documented too much of the daily facts of life of Rachel and her friends. It seems that we were provided an account of every meal and every drink that was consumed during the entire narrative. I found that distracting. I began to wonder how people who don’t have high paying jobs were able to afford to eat every meal out and drink expensive cocktails. It may sound silly, but all that detail decreased my enjoyment of what was otherwise a very good book.
Clark has put all the elements together very well—plotting, the legal setting, dialogue and characterization. There’s no sophomore slump here, and it’s great to see such a talent on the crime fiction scene. This is an excellent series, and I look forward to spending lots more time with Rachel Knight in the future.