All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Blood Witness – Alex Hammond

Blood WitnessBlood Witness
Alex Hammond
Penguin Book Aus
2013, 322p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Will Harris is a defence lawyer working for a prestigious firm in Melbourne’s CBD. Two years ago, Will was an up and coming name, high off a string of creditable wins – he was a person to watch. But then Will lost his fiancée Rachel in a diving accident and he’s been dropping off the radar ever since.

But now top Melbourne defence barrister Chris Miller has requested Will’s help specifically on his latest case, defending Martin Kier for the kidnap, rape and murder of a fifteen year old schoolgirl. Although there’s no doubting their client has some sexual proclivities that do not mesh with society’s views, Miller doubts that he’s a murderer and he and Will need to find a creditable defence in order to get their client acquitted. There’s one witness that might hold a valuable key to their case, but first Will will need to find if he can get it admitted.

Peter Kovacs is a bedridden, suffering from pneumonia that has given him a life sentence, his immune system destroyed by cancer and the drugs he was using to fight it. He claims to have witnessed the murder of schoolgirl Amber Tasic through a vision. He has always had visions, but this is the first time he has ever experienced something like this. He felt compelled to report it right away but was dismissed by the police. In attempting to find any line of defence that he can, Will visits Peter to hear his story and finds it utterly compelling, especially as Peter knows details that haven’t been released to the media and general public and his unique situation obviously clears him as a suspect in the murder itself. Will hits the books, looking for something that will allow him and Chris to call Peter as a witness in the court case.

Will also finds himself pulled in another direction when the sister of his late fiancée is charged with drug trafficking. Mischa is troubled, but she’s not a dealer and Will desperately wants to help her. Mischa doesn’t trust him though and the further Will digs the more he begins to suspect a dangerous connection to one of Melbourne’s gangs, something that could put his life and Mischa’s at risk.

This is an addictive, engrossing story right from the very first page. Alex Hammond has a law degree and has worked for law firms in Melbourne and he captures the essence of the city and the intricacies and dilemmas of working on the side of the courtroom that attempts to free people charged with crimes. It’s a common thing to hear said to a defence lawyer “how do you sleep at night?” and Chris Miller is asked that question in this book. Hammond tackles the moral question in a very interesting and different way – there’s no doubt that Martin Kier, Chris Miller and Will Harris’s client, is a reprehensible human being. He has previously been charged with distributing child pornography (without penetration) and is well known for his fascination with young teenage girls. He’s probably -or definitely- someone that should be in jail, away from vulnerable teenage girls. But that’s wholly different to being charged with murder and even though the evidence seems to suggest that he could be and this could be an easy conviction, Will and Chris have to find something to suggest it was someone else or that it possibly couldn’t have been their client. Peter Kovacs’ vision supports the fact that it was someone else, but visions, psychics and mystics are not usually regarded with any seriousness by the Australian police who have stated officially that they do not accept any help from anyone claiming to be clairvoyant. Will has to look for another way to use the information given, something that could be complicated by Peter’s physical condition. There’s also the fact that if Martin Kier isn’t the killer then there’s someone else out there, a killer who could strike again.

Will’s devotion to the case is somewhat interrupted by the fact that his almost-sister-in-law has been charged with drug trafficking and faces a lengthy jail sentence if she doesn’t come clean about who was keeping the drugs in her apartment. Will feels that he failed Mischa after Rachel died, that he abandoned her when she needed him, in order to work through his own grief. Now he feels that he owes her and keeping her out of jail is just the beginning, although Mischa isn’t being very co-operative. Will feels like this is what he needs to do to let go and move on, although it’s impacting on his work with Miller and his boss isn’t particularly happy with him. It’s a very fine balancing, juggling act and Will is one fumble away from having everything crash down on top of him.

Will is a great character because I think he alters perceptions of defence lawyers. He’s very humanised and the way in which he deals with Mischa and Peter makes him highly likable. He’s dedicated and very intelligent and at times he is almost too good but Hammond just brings him back from the brink of too good to be true. I found his reaction to Kier really interesting, because Will doesn’t really make much of an attempt to hide the fact that he thinks Kier is a disgusting person. But he knows the law and he knows what he can use the law for and that works for the defence team quite well in this book. It did make me think, because Kier made my skin crawl and he probably should be locked up and have them throw away the key but not for something that he didn’t do. The right to a fair trial is always a fun debate and I think I agree that everyone should be able to have their day in court and that it should be up to the prosecution to present a watertight case however there are always going to be loopholes, inconsistencies that can be exploited. It’s the way of trial by jury. Sometimes guilty people will walk, sometimes innocent people won’t. It makes me uneasy but I don’t really have a better solution.

I really enjoyed this book and the end of it had a great set-up for another installment featuring Will and Chris Miller, which has already been snapped up by Penguin. I can’t wait to read it because I think this has a terrific longevity potential.


Book #161 of 2013

Aussie Author Challenge

Blood Witness counts towards my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge.