Guilt by Association
Little, Brown & Company
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". . .a heady mix of humor, pathos and gritty police work. . ."
An insightful study in contrasts that just happens to be a great mystery.
Beginning with the murder of a colleague in the Special Trials division of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, Rachel Knight faces the fact that outside of the office she did not know Jake Pahlmeyer very well. It is a hard truth and she has a few moments of doubt about whether or not the man she knew was a pedophile and murderer willing to commit suicide.
Since the subject of the investigation is one of her own, Rachel is recused. When Jake’s pending cases are redistributed, Rachel ends up with the rape of a fifteen-year-old girl in Pacific Palisades whose father is pushing the DA’s office to find and lock up the rapist he is convinced is the young Hispanic gangbanger his daughter had been tutoring to get his GED. Rachel will not be shut down and continues, despite a stern warning, to look into Jake’s death, and finds out more than she bargained for while she pursues the rapist.
How well do we really know the people in our lives? It is a question Marcia Clark asks repeatedly in Guilt by Association to stunning effect. By mining the relationships closest to the main characters and the subjects of an investigation, Clark shakes Rachel’s faith in her own judgment chasing leads that will prove her moments of doubt about her “office soul mate” were wrong and she was right that Jake was one of the good guys.
What is good about Guilt by Association are the relationships and the verbal badinage that reveals so much about Rachel and her colleagues. What is best about Clark’s mystery is that it is not easy to untangle and she plays her cards very close to the vest. There is also a downside to the book and that is in the prologue and beginning. I was not enthusiastic about the book and steeled myself for something that did not interest or intrigue me from what I read of the first few pages, but I hung in there and was surprised and excited, so excited I read the whole book in two settings, even after starting the book three times.
Guilty by Association is firmly rooted in Los Angeles. The details are rich without being intrusive. They are an integral part of the book and Clark does a good job of maintaining focus on the mystery while imparting little details of characterization that broaden and define the main characters. The quick character sketches of minor characters are just as meticulous and telling. Guilt by Association is a heady mix of humor, pathos and gritty police work that pays off with a fascinating, heart in the mouth read to the end.
Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell