The discovery of a dead girl's body on a desecrated church altar in Texas leads to the collision of an unctuous hypocritical senator, a mercenary powerhouse shyster, and a determined young reporter in this meandering mystery that provides ample thrills, but only facile characterization. In his debut novel, Crouch, himself a veteran attorney, pits dedicated young lawyer Jace Forman and paralegal Darrin McKenzie against wealthy, well-connected Cal Connors in the investigation of 21-year-old Alexis Stone's death and disinterment. If Crouch's depiction of Connors is brutally one-dimensional, he at least keeps the story spinning with subplots, such as those involving Stone's involvement with married Sen. Talmadge Worthman, the clash between Connors's daughter Christine and reporter Leah Rosen, and the mysterious relationship between cemetery official Wallace Arnold and embalmer Lonnie Masterson. The characters fill their roles zestfully, but the book lacks depth below its fast-moving surface. Rosen's discovery of an explosive secret and the presence of Forman's alienated son Matt in Stone's apartment before her death provide ample last-minute drama, but the shocking conclusion obscures the legitimate questions about the legal system and judicial powers that Crouch raises. Readers interested in courtroom drama and fast-moving thrillers will find much to like here, but those in search of well-wrought characterization will likely be frustrated.
Reviewed on: 10/21/2013 Release date: 02/01/2013 Genre: Fiction