THE VERDICT

Written by Nick Stone

Review written by Adrian Magson

Adrian Magson is the author of 20 crime and spy thrillers. His latest books are ‘The Bid’ (Midnight Ink), the second Gonzales & Vaslik thriller, and ‘Dark Asset’ (Severn House), the fourth in his Marc Portman series. More information https://www.adrianmagson.com/


THE VERDICT
Sphere
RRP: £16.99
Released: 23rd January 2014
Hbk

Legal clerks with any ambition are usually young and hungry, eager to make their way in a tough profession. Unfortunately, Terry Flynt isn’t so young, and doesn’t seem to have the instinctive dog-bite reaction to being put down by others. He also has a history of a serious drink problem.

But he is ambitious. And married, with two children. And so far, sober.

Then he is selected to be on the defence team for a case involving a millionaire businessman accused of murdering a woman in his hotel room after what appears to be an aggressive, drunken rampage.

This high-profile case could be the turning point for Terry, especially as it appears to be getting one over on a senior colleague who has long treated him like dirt. But there’s a big snag. The accused man, Vernon James, is an old childhood friend whom Terry fell out with a long time ago, and now loathes. Too late he realises that he should have confessed this conflict of interest, but he doesn’t; this is too big a chance for him and he doesn’t want to miss it.

Forced to work with a cynical investigator who seems past his best, and a barrister who is dying, Terry reluctantly prises open Vernon James’s life and the events leading up to his arrest. It doesn’t make comfortable news; James is, on all the evidence, as guilty as a man can be; there are witnesses, film footage – and worst of all – evidence that Vernon is violent and sadistic towards women, especially sex workers. But does that mean he’s a killer? And does it make it easy for Terry to see his downfall?

Things change dramatically when Terry begins to see gaps in what reportedly happened at the murder scene. The facts don’t add up and he finds himself growing increasingly sceptical about the reasons his firm’s boss took on the case in the first place, and for putting together what is essentially a second-rate investigative and defence team.

Sitting between a crime and legal thriller, this is a journey of a man at first absolutely certain of his feelings – and wanting to be right - but increasingly shaken by the reality of the growing evidence. The uncovering of the facts by him and Swayne (the done it, seen it, past it investigator), add to Terry’s fears about the possible outcome of the trial. This is not least because of the dubious viability of the witnesses, the history of the accused, and the motives of those in the justice and legal system.

It makes compulsive reading, and there’s great pace and tension in the constant shifting of positions and loyalties, and the revelations surrounding the case that make this much more than a simple murder trial. And Terry Flynt, the outsider (who seems much more of an investigator than a potential lawyer), really doesn‘t know who he can trust, only that the demons threatening him are not all in the bottom of a bottle, but much closer at hand.

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