An intriguing, informed examination of the justice system from a professional and personal perspective.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2021

ALMOST INNOCENT

FROM SEARCHING TO SAVED IN AMERICA'S CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

A lawyer’s memoir draws connections between her cases and her family’s involvement with the law.

Brien weaves together her personal story, including a somewhat dysfunctional childhood, marriage to an NFL player, and motherhood, with tales from her work as a criminal defense lawyer and the saga of her family’s involvement in a federal mortgage fraud case. Brien, whose work involves appeals by people already convicted of crimes, recounts the stories of clients whose actual guilt or innocence is less important than the fact that they have been ill-served by the justice system, facing bias, mandatory minimum sentencing, inadequate representation, and unsympathetic officials. Those stories are interspersed with Brien’s personal history. She was raised primarily by her White mother; her Muscogee father’s undiagnosed depression made him an unstable presence. After difficult teenage years, she attended Berkeley and Stanford universities. She married a Berkeley classmate whose football career led to several cross-country moves—and the experience of seeing her husband under investigation following a business associate’s fraudulent activities. Brien finds parallels between her clients’ experiences and her own, drawing lessons from them while remaining aware of the privilege that makes her family’s encounter with the law a very different experience. Brien, a strong writer, is particularly skilled at explaining the procedural minutiae that form the basis of her work without overwhelming the reader with legalese. She also excels at revealing her clients’ humanity as she shares their stories. She is remarkably open in describing her relationship with her “hippie football-playing feminist frat guy” husband and the challenges they faced balancing their careers while raising small children. Brien ably explains how she maintains a fundamental belief in the legal system while directly confronting its many shortcomings, appreciating each of the rare wins she accomplishes on behalf of a client. The result is a compelling, thought-provoking work that shies away from easy answers to questions of right and wrong or guilt and innocence.

An intriguing, informed examination of the justice system from a professional and personal perspective.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64543-203-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Amplify Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history...

THUNDERSTRUCK

A murder that transfixed the world and the invention that made possible the chase for its perpetrator combine in this fitfully thrilling real-life mystery.

Using the same formula that propelled Devil in the White City (2003), Larson pairs the story of a groundbreaking advance with a pulpy murder drama to limn the sociological particulars of its pre-WWI setting. While White City featured the Chicago World’s Fair and America’s first serial killer, this combines the fascinating case of Dr. Hawley Crippen with the much less gripping tale of Guglielmo Marconi’s invention of radio. (Larson draws out the twin narratives for a long while before showing how they intersect.) Undeniably brilliant, Marconi came to fame at a young age, during a time when scientific discoveries held mass appeal and were demonstrated before awed crowds with circus-like theatricality. Marconi’s radio sets, with their accompanying explosions of light and noise, were tailor-made for such showcases. By the early-20th century, however, the Italian was fighting with rival wireless companies to maintain his competitive edge. The event that would bring his invention back into the limelight was the first great crime story of the century. A mild-mannered doctor from Michigan who had married a tempestuously demanding actress and moved to London, Crippen became the eye of a media storm in 1910 when, after his wife’s “disappearance” (he had buried her body in the basement), he set off with a younger woman on an ocean-liner bound for America. The ship’s captain, who soon discerned the couple’s identity, updated Scotland Yard (and the world) on the ship’s progress—by wireless. The chase that ends this story makes up for some tedious early stretches regarding Marconi’s business struggles.

At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history lesson.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2006

ISBN: 1-4000-8066-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.

RAGE

That thing in the air that is deadlier than even your “strenuous flus”? Trump knew—and did nothing about it.

The big news from veteran reporter Woodward’s follow-up to Fear has been widely reported: Trump was fully aware at the beginning of 2020 that a pandemic loomed and chose to downplay it, causing an untold number of deaths and crippling the economy. His excuse that he didn’t want to cause a panic doesn’t fly given that he trades in fear and division. The underlying news, however, is that Trump participated in this book, unlike in the first, convinced by Lindsey Graham that Woodward would give him a fair shake. Seventeen interviews with the sitting president inform this book, as well as extensive digging that yields not so much news as confirmation: Trump has survived his ineptitude because the majority of Congressional Republicans go along with the madness because they “had made a political survival decision” to do so—and surrendered their party to him. The narrative often requires reading between the lines. Graham, though a byword for toadyism, often reins Trump in; Jared Kushner emerges as the real power in the West Wing, “highly competent but often shockingly misguided in his assessments”; Trump admires tyrants, longs for their unbridled power, resents the law and those who enforce it, and is quick to betray even his closest advisers; and, of course, Trump is beholden to Putin. Trump occasionally emerges as modestly self-aware, but throughout the narrative, he is in a rage. Though he participated, he said that he suspected this to be “a lousy book.” It’s not—though readers may wish Woodward had aired some of this information earlier, when more could have been done to stem the pandemic. When promoting Fear, the author was asked for his assessment of Trump. His reply: “Let’s hope to God we don’t have a crisis.” Multiple crises later, Woodward concludes, as many observers have, “Trump is the wrong man for the job.”

An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982131-73-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more