Blood Defense: Book Review


What is this about: Blood Defense is the first in a new series from Marcia Clark featuring lawyer Samantha Brinkman. This is the story of a case, that has less to do with the courtroom, and more to do with an investigation into a starlet’s murder by a cop. It’s also more character-focused than I thought it would be.

What else is this about: Building up Samantha’s background and her relationships.

Stars: 3.5/5

Should you read: Yes! Expected complicated female characters and unexpected twists in a murder case, around which the entire novel DOES NOT rely.

Blurb: First in a new series from bestselling author and famed O. J. Simpson trial prosecutor Marcia Clark, a “terrific writer and storyteller” (James Patterson).

Samantha Brinkman, an ambitious, hard-charging Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, is struggling to make a name for herself and to drag her fledgling practice into the big leagues. Sam lands a high-profile double-murder case in which one of the victims is a beloved TV star—and the defendant is a decorated veteran LAPD detective. It promises to be exactly the kind of media sensation that would establish her as a heavy hitter in the world of criminal law.

Though Sam has doubts about his innocence, she and her two associates (her closest childhood friend and a brilliant ex-con) take the case. Notorious for living by her own rules—and fearlessly breaking everyone else’s—Samantha pulls out all the stops in her quest to uncover evidence that will clear the detective. But when a shocking secret at the core of the case shatters her personal world, Sam realizes that not only has her client been playing her, he might be one of the most dangerous sociopaths she’s ever encountered.

I have to admit that it was the recent OJ Simpson mini series, and Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark and the epic amount of bullshit she endured on TV made me search out the real Marcia Clark after, because the real Marcia Clark would have to put up with heaps of more bullshit than the mini series put her through.

And then I found she was an accomplished author and here we are!

You know what else I find interesting about this book? It’s in a genre that is pretty strongly relying on the ever-present twist to sell titles and there’s not one mention of twist in the blurb — and here’s the thing, there’s a plot point that could’ve legitimately added the t-word to the blurb, but the book didn’t. I suspect Marcia Clark doesn’t need to rely on a twist to sell her work, but I’d like to think that someone somewhere recognised this is pretty damn good character building and didn’t need a twist trumpeted on the back cover.

(Is anyone else slightly surprised when they don’t read a mystery that is touted as having a twist and is the next Gone Girl yadda yadda?)

Blood Defense is about Samantha, a media savvy lawyer working on building up her small firm. She works with her best friend, Michelle and Alex, a former client and now the firm’s investigator and hacker. This is really a book about Samantha, her relationships with Michelle and Alex, and her family — as a result, there’s actually very little court time here, but plenty of investigation as Samantha takes on the case of Dale Pearson, a cop accused of murder.

The case is surprising, complicated (naturally) and Samantha gets to show off her skills as an investigator, lawyer and general bad ass manipulator with no time for bullshit. She’s impressive, without being arrogant or (too) demure about her success and she, Michelle and Alex are a band of musketeers that are going to be fascinating to read about.

But here’s the thing, while the case does bring some revelations for Samantha, it’s not what kept me reading — she did, as much as her relationship with Michelle, Alex and her mother, Celeste, did.

Samantha is sharp, funny and manipulative when she needs to be in order to get her way, a combination that makes her a great character to read. She’s fiercely protective of her those closest to her like Michelle and Alex (who in all honesty, are the only friends she has). Clark keeps her surprises for Samantha’s character, delivering it quietly, without any of the fanfare of other books touting a plot point that looks like a twist and is anything but. It serves to make the different parts of Sam that Clark has shown through the book come together into a character you’ll see differently, and will make all the more sense as a result.

She’s also cold, or maybe ruthless is a better word with those who have hurt her — especially her mother, Celeste. The book relates their history without delivering a sermon of angst about Samantha’s less-than-daughterly feelings towards her, and highlights exactly what I said above — that Sam can be ruthless with those who hurt her or those close to her.

She and Michelle are like sisters, who along with advising each other on the best way to get the firm more famous and on the news, are also each other’s conscience. There’s a sense that it’s been them against the world for the longest time, so their relationship is familiar, solid and a constant in both their lives, Sam’s especially.

Then there’s Alex, the little brother of the team. He’s a hacker and now wonderfully determined to be the best investigator he can be — he’s so determined in fact, he’s studying up on it much to Sam’s annoyance when he quotes the books he’s studying from while they’re investigating. There’s something naive and young about him when the book starts, but as it progresses, Clark reveals him to be a far more talented and astute investigator than we or even Sam realised.  Like Michelle, he’s Sam’s family and the book firmly establishes that these two and their firm are Sam’s world.

At first glance, I didn’t quite know how these characters would fit, but as the investigation continued it became clear that these three characters feed off each other — they’re family in their own way.

Overall, it’s not doing twists like Gone Girl or whatever. It’s better — it’s characters that are going to annoy you, surprise you and make you go back and re-read sections just to make sure you read what you thought you did.

I was really surprised that in a genre made for twists, this book doesn’t mention anything of the sort. And more importantly, even though it does have points that could be spun as twists, it really doesn’t actually need them. What do you think of books like this?


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