Moral Defense, by Marcia Clark (yes, THAT Marcia Clark, of OJ fame) is the second in the series featuring a criminal defense attorney named Samantha Brinkman, based in Los Angeles. I first met Sam in Blood Defense, the first title in the series, in which Sam defended a decorated homicide detective accused in a double murder. Turns out there was a significant connection between Sam and the defendant, which was a complete blindside to her when she found out, and which pretty much rocked her world. That defendant reappears in this second book, and it appears he will be a recurring character in the series.
Sam and her two associates (one is a genius ex-con, the other her closest childhood friend) sort of fly by the seat of their collective pants, bending some rules and possibly breaking others, as they work to get their clients off at all costs. In this second book, Sam is hired as a legal advocate for a teenager named Cassie who has been accused of murdering her father and brother and leaving her mother clinging to life. It’s the perfect case for an attorney longing to make it to the bigtime, media-frenzy cases that will guarantee success. As the case unfolds, Sam discovers she identifies with Cassie (which might be clouding her judgment, but which motivates her to work even more ferociously to solve the mystery and keep Cassie from going to jail).
I admit to a fascination with Marcia Clark, going back to the early 90s when she was a media star as well as a legal star as she battled to convict OJ (double murders seem to recur in her books. She has another series with a female protagonist who is on the other side, prosecuting cases, which is clearly where Marcia’s expertise would seem to lie. But I think perhaps writing this series, about defending accused criminals, has allowed Ms. Clark to explore how she might have acted if she were truly on the (“anything goes as long as you don’t get caught”) defense side of the aisle.
Sam is a great characted, and her opinions suggest how Marcia may have felt during her legal career: “I’d been trashed on cable for dressing like a bargain-basement rag doll. Someday, women won’t have to put up with it. Someday, people are going to care more about what we say and do than what we look like. But that day didn’t seem to be coming any time soon…”
Her “anything goes” approach is reflected as she speaks to key figures in the investigation. In one instance, her words and her thoughts are somewhat at odds: ““Everything you say to me will be confidential. I promise you.” Unless you give me something I can use, in which case I’ll tie you to my bumper and drag you all the way to the courthouse.” In another conversation, she asks “”…You okay with that?” It didn’t really matter, The lawyer controls the case and sets the strategy. The only decisions the clients really get to make are whether to plead guilty and whether to take the stand. But it’s good to let them feel like they have a say in things. Make them ore cooperative.”
I had a few issues with minor details in the story, but they didn’t affect the plot. For example, at one point, she says “Mission Viejo is further south, not far from San Diego.” Which is totally not correct, and has no impact on the story, as it didn’t affect anything as the narrative moved the location of Mission Viejo further from LA. It just seemed slightly sloppy, but I let it go because the story and character development were really pulling me along. I REALLY wanted to know what happened with Cassie, and why Sam was so connected to her.
I look forward to the next books in the Samantha Brinkman series. (Personally, I don’t care if I read any more in the Rachel Knight series, because Sam is a much more interesting character than Rachel, again just IMHO)
Thanks to Thomas & Mercer and Net Galley for an advance copy of this title in exchange for my honest review. Four stars, and REALLY close to five.