::Literate Blather::
Friday, February 20, 2009
Book Review: Narrow Miss for "Above the Law"

Here’s the question: Is there anything Tim Green can’t do?

He was a professional football player (first round draft pick for the Atlanta Falcons). After football, he was a football commentator for FOX Sports. He graduated from law school and became a lawyer. And now he’s a bestselling author.

Makes you want to smack the guy – except he’d probably kick your ass.

On Monday, Green’s latest suspense novel “Above the Law” hits bookstores. It’s a hybrid – a legal drama that becomes a revenge thriller. Neither genre works well in “Above the Law,” yet somehow
Green manages to put together a compelling piece of fiction that's fun to read despite its flaws.

Green returns to the character of attorney Casey Jordan (first introduced in his 2005 legal
thriller “The Letter of the Law”). Jordan now operates a legal clinic for poor women in Texas. She becomes embroiled in helping to prevent a young Mexican mother from being deported after her husband’s accidental slaying.

U.S. Senator Chase, a conservative and staunch anti-immigration advocate, shot the husband during a turkey hunt at the senator’s ranch. But was the shooting an accident – or murder? Is the deportation of the victim’s wife a way to protect the senator?

Jordan, a plucky character with lots of legal smarts, enters into a sly game of legal one-upsmanship with the Senator and law enforcement officials – firmly entrenched in the senator’s camp. This is the best part of the novel. Green does an excellent job showcasing the legal angles and complications in the case.

But just as “Above the Law” starts shaping into what could have been a fascinating legal drama – Green suddenly shifts gears and turns “Above the Law” into an action adventure story – with revenge as the centerpiece. It’s disappointing to watch Jordan – clearly a brilliant lawyer – turn into a middle-aged Nancy Drew.

She’s partnered in this adventure by ex-cop and private eye Jose O’Brien. O’Brien muddles the story because he basically becomes more of a plot device than a well-rounded character. In other words, his actions are dictated by the plot – rather than by his character.

At this point, the story Green falls back on some rather tired stereotypes – especially around the Mexico mother, who has no personality and serves only as a damsel in distress to be saved over and over again by Jordan and O’Brien.

There’s also the clichés of the Mexican gangbanger in the form of the dead husband’s brother (who can take more punishment than the Terminator) and the angry, racist sheriff who takes the law into his own hands.

But it may be the character of the senator who falls furthest away from reality. Instead of creating a nuanced and complicated villain – Green pulls out no stops in making Chase the embodiment of evil – even having him beat to death several puppies.

Yet even though the story becomes bent on revenge, the ending lacks a satisfying red-meat comeuppance for the evil senator. It’s hard not to feel like Green missed an opportunity here.

Yet despite the flaws in the second half of the novel, “Above the Law” manages to be quite entertaining. The writing is breezy and Green sprinkles the book with interesting legal questions and observations about America’s shameful treatment of illegal
immigrants. If you're looking for a solid thriller that reads like a movie - then you won't be disappointed.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Green – and even though it was flawed – I enjoyed it enough that I’ll be returning to Green’s other books. He’s no doubt that he's a good writer and just narrow
ly missed it on this one.

Buy "Above the Law" by Tim Green at Amazon.com

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
"The Hong Kong Connection" is a legal thriller about a gutsy female attorney who takes on high ranking International officials. It's a taut, rollercoaster of a ride from New York to Palm Beach to Washington D.C. to Hong Kong. The plot is expertly woven, the characters persuasive, and the dialogue snappy and spot on.

Blogger GFS3 said...
Generally, I delete blatant spam comments M.L., but since the author of "The Hone Kong Connection" appears to be your wife I'll let it stand.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I hear what you're saying in this review, but I love Tim Green and I'll buy anything he writes.

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