July 23, 2023

Book Review


reviewed by Warner Holme


Richard North Patterson’s Trial marks the author’s reentry into the realm of legal thrillers after a significant hiatus. A luminary in the genre, who has maintained relevance through a series of compelling articles, this book chronicles the lead-up and trial of a young Black man in contemporary Georgia.

Much like numerous cases of police abuse, the story begins when an officer switches off his body camera and approaches a young Black man in a car. Instead of concluding with the young man’s death, however, the story takes a twist when the police find the young man in a panic, with the officer now dead. Instead of instantly shooting the young voting rights activist, he is taken into custody and allowed to call his mother for legal representation. She secures the help of Chase Brevard, a young congressman from Massachusetts, who, while fully qualified in law, has a subtle connection to the case. His investigations and battles against an inherently biased system, although familiar, are captivating.

From a moral standpoint, the story is complex. As the plot unfolds, certain officers stepping forward to reveal evidence becomes the primary reason that a range of evidence sees the light of day. As law enforcement history and recent news demonstrate, anyone disclosing evidence that could vindicate the accused would be risking their career at the very least. Those willing to take such a risk likely would not have advanced beyond the lowest ranks to begin with. The sheriff, while not portrayed as a paragon of virtue, is depicted as fundamentally honest in these matters. This portrayal somewhat succeeds, as while he is depicted as generally well-intentioned, he goes out of his way to protect officers who have intentionally turned off their body cameras. The outcomes of such testimonies and actions may cause readers to view him as a less admirable person but a more plausible 21st-century police officer. Although this may seem unrealistic from a strictly realistic 21st-century perspective, the nature of storytelling often extends beyond such boundaries. Policing, in one form or another, is necessary and will continue to be so until the human flaws that produce corrupt cops are eradicated. Not depicting morally complex or even virtuous cops would either be nihilistic or a mere denial of the issue – that one way or another, the role will continue to need filling.

One of the blurbs for this book draws parallels with To Kill a Mockingbird. While it’s not a perfect comparison, it serves well for promotional purposes. The book is a courtroom drama, featuring a falsely accused man of color and the appalling politics of its time. Additionally, like the aforementioned novel, both are well-intentioned and enlightening manuscripts on race, justice, and America, albeit written from a predominantly white perspective.

Any fan of Richard North Patterson should not miss this book, especially given the recent lack of material from him. Anyone interested in legal thrillers or the subject matter would do well to pick it up, allotting themselves a few hundred well-written pages through which to view a slightly fictionalized version of the 21st century.

Trial is available at:

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