Book Review: Guilt by Degrees by Marcia Clark

Posted July 29, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 1 Comment

Book Review: Guilt by Degrees by Marcia ClarkGuilt by Degrees by Marcia Clark
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Published by Mulholland Books on May 8, 2012
Pages: 448
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley


Someone has been watching D.A. Rachel Knight--someone who's Rachel's equal in brains, but with more malicious intentions. It began when a near-impossible case fell into Rachel's lap, the suspectless homicide of a homeless man. In the face of courthouse backbiting and a gauzy web of clues, Rachel is determined to deliver justice. She's got back-up: tough-as-nails Detective Bailey Keller. As Rachel and Bailey stir things up, they're shocked to uncover a connection with the vicious murder of an LAPD cop a year earlier. Something tells Rachel someoneknows the truth, someone who'd kill to keep it secret.

Harrowing, smart, and riotously entertaining, GUILT BY DEGREES is a thrilling ride through the world of LA courts with the unforgettable Rachel Knight.

Also by this author: Guilt by Association, Killer Ambition, The Competition

Second in the Rachel Knight legal thriller mystery series and revolving around an L.A. prosecutor. And if you’re reading this series at all, you have to read this one if only because of how it affects future stories!

My thanks to NetGalley and Mulholland Books for providing this ARC for my enjoyment.

My Take
Whoa, Clark got me twisted up right from the start with this mysterious murder in full view of a crowded sidewalk that appears to relate to a brutal murder from the past. I just didn’t know it until I got further into the story. After that, well, I was so confused about “poor” Zack. The further in I read, the more and more complex it got before it started to connect. A very satisfying read even if there was such sadness in it.

It’s a lot of beating the sidewalk and online research along with interviews now and in the past. One thread leads to another. It also proves how essential it is to gather up as much information as possible about a person, for you never know what thread will lead where. And there were some fairly innocuous clues in this, that, when put together, told a much fuller story.

Crack me up. Rachel gets so irritated with a fellow prosecutor’s incompetence that she jumps to take his case on. Which only irritates the idiot. It’s a convoluted case where no one can figure out how there was a crime and who might be guilty. The more they dig, the more questions come up, and this is what will drag you in.

I do adore Eric. A boss who goes to bat for those under him. Such a rarity. That pair of jerks — Averill and Hemet — are on the warpath, and Rachel picking up a non-case like this provides too much ammunition against her for those who hate her. And that includes Vanderhorn. But no pressure.

Oh, wow, oh, wow, I want Meyer’s house!!

Whoa, Rachel’s reaction to Graden’s curiosity is so far out of line! I think Graden’s assessment is right on the money, that Rachel is suffering from Toni-syndrome. Rache obviously needs to spend a lot more time with Carla. Especially when we find out what she’s not telling her besties. It does lead to more in-depth information on what happened when Romy disappeared. And why Rachel is carrying all this guilt. Worse, I want to yell at Rachel for how she behaves at the time, even as I know no 7-year-old can be expected to know how to react.

It’s kind of a life of Reilly with the three friends. They spend a lot of time eating out and drinking at night. They make good use of Rachel’s very convenient hotel room, and ooh baby, that room service! Yet, they feel real. The dialogue is good with a sense of reality to it as well. You can’t help but like these ladies, and not least because they’re smart!

I do like Luis. He’s ambitious, and Clark does a beautiful job of writing his dialog.

Ya tend to think of being a lawyer as a desk job, but reading about Rachel’s adventures will reassure you about that. She and Bailey are out in the field like partners, only she’s the only one getting beaten, which will result in her being assigned bodyguards. Which makes you wonder where Rachel’s head is at that she sets up this trap without their help.

Jesus, what is it with it never being the bad guy’s fault? All these awful things that happen in their lives, and it’s never, ever their fault? I wanna smack ’em for that alone…!

The Story
The crappy attitude of an ill-prepared prosecutor goads Rachel into doing the re-file on the death of a homeless man. It also boomerangs on her when that prosecutor, Brandon Averill,

It’s an iffy case, and it’ll take a lot of work to prove it was a murder. And with an innocent defendant.

Complicating matters is what Rachel sees as a gross invasion of privacy — and Graden is out on his ass.

The Characters
Rachel Knight is one of the best prosecutors in Special Trials, but she’s not without her faults: she’s chronically on the verge of being late, she has a potty mouth, and others say she’s confrontational. Rachel says she’s being direct. Romy is the sister who vanished twenty-seven years. Carla the Crone became Rachel’s lifelong shrink. Daniel Rose is the former love of Rachel’s life, and he’s back in town.

Special Trials Unit
The Special Trials lawyers get a lot of heat for getting hot cases, and they’re always the “most complex, high-profile cases”. Eric Northrup is Rachel’s boss and the head deputy of the unit. Melia is the unit secretary working for Eric. Toni LaCollier is one of the lawyers with Special Trials, one of Rachel’s best friends, and currently on with J.D.; theirs is an on-again, off-again relationship depending on who’s feeling too committed. Sandi Runyon is head of Media Relations.

District Attorney William Vanderhorn is an idiot, but even he could see how bad Hemet was. Fred Summers is Vanderhorn’s second-in-command — and the real boss. Rosario is one of the filers down at the clerk’s office. Arturo is a mail room clerk.

The judges
Judge Foster is the first judge to appear; Manny is his clerk. Deputy Stevenson is his bailiff. Judge J.D. Morgan is a respected judge.

The lawyers
Walter Schoenfeld is a seasoned public defender. Sam Zucker is another public defender.

Brandon Averill is a jerk of a prosecutor; Judge Foster sure doesn’t like him. Averill is great friends with Phil Hemet, a “world-class brownnoser…who lost the only case he ever tried”. Rosa is Hemet’s secretary and about to give birth; she’s not planning on coming back, and she’s got the dirt the girls want.

Detective Bailey Keller is a brilliant cop over at Robbery-Homicide and another of Rachel’s best friends. Lieutenant Graden Hales is in charge at Robbery-Homicide; Rachel met him in Guilt by Association, 1. He’s also gorgeous, filthy rich, and dating Rachel. Devon is his brother.

The DA investigators are the assigned bodyguards
Gary Schrader is the team leader and senior investigator. Stephen, James, and Mario make up the rest of the team.

Scott Ferrier, a coroner’s investigator, is a friend of Rachel’s who’s willing to slide information her way. Dr. Sparks is the pathologist. Steve Diamond is a criminalist for the L.A. County Coroner, and Rachel considers him an everything man. He’s also compiled a database of blunt and sharp force injuries. Dr. Bruno Spagnotti is Rachel’s favorite forensic psychologist.

The Yamaguchi case
Ronald Yamaguchi is the accused; he’s a masseur with a black belt in tae kwon do. The arresting officer is Hank Aronofsky. Detective Stoner is investigating until he tangles with Averill. It does make Stoner popular with everyone else. Charlie Fern is an unreliable witness. Andy Kim is the Wells Fargo bank manager. Patrolman Harley Sahagan is the alibi. Wendy is a fellow masseuse.

The murder of Zack Bayer
Zack is a cop in love with his wife, and he has a healthy, productive hobby: woodworking. His lawyer wife, Lilah Rossmoyne, was acquitted, and Simon Bayer is his angry artist brother. Angie was Simon’s girlfriend who really tried to help. Claire and Fred are the devastated parents. Larry Gladstein had been the prosecutor on the case, and he’s still furious. Mark Steiner is a buddy of Rachel’s who’d worked with Larry. Rick Meyer had been the investigating officer. Mike Howell represented Lilah during the trial. Tracy Chernoff was Zack’s childhood neighbor with some truths for Rachel and Bailey. Lilah’s mother, Pam, was a nightmare, a good reason for requiring parents to pass psychological tests before being allowed to have a child. Her father, Gary, was too lenient and blind to his daughter’s behavior. Lyle Monahan is one of the senior partners at the law firm; Audrey Wagner is the paralegal in charge of Human Resources; Phyllis Blankmeyer has the dirt on her; Joel Carstone was a junior associate then; and, Teddy Janeway is Carstone’s secretary with dirt on her as well. Sergeant Paul Tegagian was a co-worker of Zack’s down at the Glendale PD with some useful insight on Lilah. Chris is a waiter at La Poubelle. Conrad Bagram owns a used car dealership, Conrad’s Auto Body and Repair, with his own little scam going on. Alicia Morris had her car stolen back then. Tran Lee, a waiter at Josie’s, was identified as the thief. Duncan Friedkin was a co-worker and friend. Venice Community Housing is run by Teresa Solis; she fills them in on Diane Nguyen, who provides the smoking gun. Mrs. Kluffman was Simon’s landlord for a while. Dr. Aigler was a baby doctor.

Sabrina McCullough is a freelance operative gathering information for whoever has the money to pay for it. Chase Erling is the only other operative she trusts, and he’s a whiz at research and with computers. Maxwell Chevorin is one of her regular clients.

Congressman Rankin is one of her jobs. Brenda Honesdale‘s destruction was a blast from Sabrina’s past, and the reason she was hired on at the law firm. A Nazi Low Rider got some bad info.

Cletus is a homeless guy who used to be a minor-league pitcher to whom Rachel regularly gives Chinese takeout. Johnnie Jasper is a street person with a nice set-up. Luis Revelo is a shot-caller for the Sylmar Seven (see Guilt by Association). Butch Adler, a.k.a., the Glass Man, and he doesn’t like PEN1, a white supremacist group. Dominic Rostoni is the head man for PEN1 and a custom motorcycle dealer; Lonnie Wilson is his second.

The media
Miles Rykoff is a reporter for the Times. He can tell Rachel who leaked Simon’s story — Averill.

The Biltmore Hotel
Rachel just got upgraded to a two-bedroom suite in her sweetheart deal. Drew is the night bartender, and he and Bailey have been dating for a year. Angel is the doorman. Rafi is the valet. Jason is a bellman.

The Cover
The cover is consistent with the first one in this re-release of the series. A white background with two simple objects as metaphors: lipstick for the femme fatale and handcuffs for all the cops and crooks involved.

I’m confused about the title. My interpretation would be that there are different levels of guilt, and whoa, I think I just figured it out. Those parents on both sides, Rachel’s childhood trauma, a victim, a murderer…there’s plenty of Guilt by Degrees.

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