Blood Witness: Australian legal thriller

Blood Witness book review

Stars: 3.5/5

What is the book about: Will Harris, a lawyer, is trying to move on after the death of his girlfriend two years prior to the book. Hammond has taken everything Will holds dear, chucked it and forced his character to start over with a controversial case.

There’s a case to be solved, right?: Will has to defend the worst of the worst on murder charges, but here’s the catch: his client really is innocent. There’s witness who insists he saw the murder in a vision, and didn’t see Will’s client commit the crime, and there’s enough evidence to show this witness really is telling the truth. Thing is, this isn’t a case about psychics.

What else is going on?: Will’s almost sister-in-law makes an appearance, complicating his life with legal problems of her own, and keeping him with at least one foot in the past. Interestingly, the future beckons Will as well with the introduction of a potential love interest. There’s a wonderful balance between past and present in this book, which leaves me eager for the next in the series.

Why should you read this: Because you’re tired of the familiar Grisham and US legal thrillers and want something different. Because there’s less time in the courtroom than you’d expect but there’s just enough of those kinds of scenes to satisfy you. This isn’t about a character mired in grief, he’s past that — this is about Will moving on. And seriously, have you ever thought you’d put Australian and legal thriller together? Ever?

But, yes there’s an official blurb: One man’s search for justice and redemption plunges him into the violent world of Melbourne’s underbelly.

Defence lawyer Will Harris is reluctantly drawn into a bizarre murder trial. A terminally ill man claims to have witnessed the brutal crime – in a vision.

But the looming trial is more than just a media circus: it’s Will’s first big case since the tragic death of his fiancée.

With the pressure mounting, Will’s loyalties are split when his fiancée’s sister is charged with drug trafficking.

The strain of balancing both cases takes its toll and Will finds himself torn between following the law and seeking justice.

Blood Witness is a dark powerful thriller from a talented new voice.

Now on to the rest of my review!

While grief drives Will for much of this book, this is a story about moving on and about changing: nothing causes more change than grief, I think and it means as much as readers are finding out who Will is, so is he, and that makes for a more interesting character and exciting read. It becomes very apparent quickly in this book that Will is doing things he wouldn’t normally have.

Blood Witness begins when Chris Miller, a barrister, comes to Will’s firm asking for his help to defend Martin Kier, already on the sex offender registry, on murder charges. His current arrest is for the murder of Amber Tasic, a 15-year-old girl, with whom he had sex on the night she died — essentially everything points to him, save for the seemingly implausible statement from a witness who claims he saw the murder in a vision — and he knows just enough for Will to use him in a last ditch effort to clear Kier’s name, despite Miller’s reservations and those of his boss at the firm as well.

This storyline provides the legal part of legal thriller. It’s well paced, and is a good contrast to the other case Will is working on: clearing his dead fiance’s sister of drug charges. Mischa is way over her head, and clearly still grieving for her sister. We learn of a wealth of bad decisions she’s made since Rachel died and that Will feels guilty for not being there for her. This is the emotional kick in the book as Will investigates on her behalf and grows steadily more worried that like he failed Rachel, he is going to fail Mischa.

Will is a good guy, with the kind of down-to-earth nature that makes you think you could have a beer with him down at the pub. Blood Witness forces him out of his comfort zones in different ways, and like I said above, Will and readers are finding out at the same time just what he is now capable of.

The secondary cast of characters includes his mother, a well-known judge who has a — not contentious — difficult relationship with Will when it comes to the law. She is an influential figure in legal circles, and by virtue of being his mother will always be a spectre over his career even if she doesn’t intend to be. She was in this one far too briefly, but her presence loomed large in the rest of the story and I enjoyed the potential she presents — I’ll have to read book 2 to see how that pays off.

Admittedly, it was sheer curiosity that got me to pick this up because I’ve never read an Australian legal thriller. Alex Hammond says that for the most part, English legal fiction tends to be more interest in the social underpinnings of criminal activity, whereas American (and Australian) legal fiction tends to be more realist — which, thinking about it describes Blood Witness with its minimal courtroom scenes and action well.

All in all, this was a compelling introduction to Will Harris, to his past and present and setting the groundwork for the next book in the series.

Have you read Blood Witness? What did you think of it?

2 Comments

  • I do like a good thriller. I have not read one set in Australia though, so that would be exciting. 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing. I’m glad not TOO much of the action happens in the court room …I like some action outside of the legal aspect too.

    • Verushka says:

      I was a little bit surprised at how much wasn’t in the courtroom, but I was definitely glad for it in the end. Melbourne (where it’s set) is such a gorgeous city — you must visit one day!

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