The Professor: Two very different main characters make for an enjoyable legal thriller but…

The Professor book review

What is this about?: Thomas McMurtie is a law professor who offers Rick Drake, a headstrong, tempestuous former student the case of a life time despite their well-publicised issues. So begins an investigation into the death of a family in a crash with a truck, while the trucking company works fervently to make sure they escape the court judgement unscathed.

What else is this about?: It’s actually very much a character exploration of oil and water in the case of McMurtie and Rick. It’s also about McMurtie being at loose ends in his life and realising what he has to do next in life.

Blurb

Law professor Thomas Jackson McMurtrie literally wrote the book on evidence in the state of Alabama. But when a power-hungry colleague uses a recent run-in between McMurtrie and headstrong student Rick Drake to end his career, he is left unsure what to do next.

Meanwhile, a devastating trucking accident in Henshaw, Alabama, leaves a young family dead. Drake, now a fledgling lawyer, takes the case against the freight carrier and soon begins to uncover the truth behind the tragedy that is buried in a tangled web of arson, bribery, and greed. On the eve of the trial and with his case unraveling in the midst of a dangerous cover-up that threatens to silence his star witnesses, Drake realizes that only his estranged mentor, Professor McMurtrie, can help him now.

With everything to lose and only justice to gain, will McMurtrie and Drake overcome bad blood to defeat a ruthless adversary? Can the Professor turn back the clock and recover all that he’s lost?

Stars: 3.5/5

The Professor begins with Tom McMurtie being forced out of his position as evidence professor at a law school where he’s taught for 40 years. He is nearing 70, has just lost his wife and without his job he is at a loss as to what to do. When he’s diagnosed with cancer, he retreats to his family farm, and refers an old friend, Ruth, to Rick Drake for her case against a trucking company. 

What is the case about?

Ruth’s daughter and her entire family were killed when a truck crashed into them. Ruth wants to sue the trucking company because it seems the trucker was speeding, and it’s up to Rick to win the unwinnable case.

He is up against Jameson, the old friend who helped the university force McMurtie out, and — well, have you watched The Client? Do you remember Tommy Lee Jones’ character in it? He’s slimy and smarmy and I mostly loathed him through it — that’s what Jamo is. 

Bailey delves into the trucking company too — the owner and the men he hires to ensure the witnesses are kept out of the way and will not testify for Rick. The book in this respect is dark, darker than I thought and while it emphasises how horrible these guys are, it also made me uncomfortable to read. 

So soon enough, just before trial begins, Rick knows he can’t handle it on his own. So he goes to the Professor for help.

The Professor and Rick Drake 

These two are oil and water and do not mix — mostly because Rick is a young hothead, and within this book a cliche. He loses it at all the wrong times, and he doesn’t stop to think and to notice things. That’s left up to Dawn, the law clerk the Professor hired (unbeknownst to Rick) to help him as they navigate this case.

I found the Professor infinitely more interesting. This is a man who feels like he’s lost everything, and seems almost ready to die. It is Bo, his best friend and former student, who reminds him who he was and that life isn’t over yet, and it’s there with Bo that the Professor comes to life, and we see a man who has forgotten who he is, and who he still can be — and that is a reminder we all need sometimes I think.

The ending is where you get to see Rick and the Professor shine, and how well they can work together. It results in some glorious courtroom scenes, and these two characters finally fit together.

The Professor was saved for me by, well, the Professor, and the maturity Rick finally brought to the table. The case itself is emotional and dark and heartbreaking and a whole lot more I wasn’t expecting.

All in all, a good start to a series! 

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