Thirteen: a legal thriller that saves itself despite explaining way too much about the bad guy

Thirteen book review

What is this about?: Eddie Flynn is defending a young film star on a double murder. Which would be fine enough as it is, but then the author throws in a serial killer who happens to be an expert at setting innocent people up: by getting onto the jury

What else is this about?: Despite being part of a series, this can be considered enough to be a standalone, with the author giving just enough to readers to understand where Eddie is in his personal life and what that means for his future.

Blurb

THE SERIAL KILLER ISN’T ON TRIAL.

HE’S ON THE JURY…

They were Hollywood’s hottest power couple. They had the world at their feet. Now one of them is dead and Hollywood star Robert Solomon is charged with the brutal murder of his beautiful wife.

This is the celebrity murder trial of the century and the defence want one man on their team: con artist turned lawyer Eddie Flynn.

All the evidence points to Robert’s guilt, but as the trial begins a series of sinister incidents in the court room start to raise doubts in Eddie’s mind.

What if there’s more than one actor in the courtroom?

What if the killer isn’t on trial? What if the killer is on the jury?

Thirteen would be even more impressive than it is if the book didn’t suffer from the Darth Vader effect — an explanation and long, long backstory about the serial killer, and what made him the way he is … except, I quickly reached a point where I had no f**ks to give about the killer’s view on the American dream, his issues with his parents and how he grew to love killing. It really had no bearing on the nuts and bolts of the main plot and if you’re going to subject a reader to a killer’s POV, please be interesting and relevant.  

There’s a power to a killer firmly in the present, firmly focused on what he is doing, and letting the present situation speak volumes about him or her.

There was very little about the killer and the way he thought or whatever that was engaging to me in this book, and it’s only saving grace was that the actual story, with Eddie and Robert, the trial and his investigation was miles more interesting.

The actual plot 

Despite my disappointment about the killer and his inclusion in this story, the actual plot and characters rescued this book for me.

Eddie is a former con man, now turned lawyer and he is very good at what he does. As a result, he is often in danger and his wife and daughter are usually caught in the middle. Despite Eddie’s best intentions to put them first and his career second he genuinely believes in Robert’s innocence and so he can’t walk away from the case — even though public sentiment and the evidence seems to be turning against Robert.

That in a nutshell is where Eddie is personally, and readers learn a whole lot about Eddie in Cavanagh’s skilled and succinct writing. Which makes you wonder about the killer’s chapters, I must say.

Eddie is a riveting character — smart,  and with the mind and experience of a con man he is compelling in the courtroom and even more so when you’re reading those chapters. He also trusts his instinct, and that tells him Robert is innocent, so he can’t walk away from Robert’s case.

Into his orbit comes Harper and Delaney, a former federal agent and no PI and a current FBI agent respectively. It’s Harper who helps him uncover a link to a serial killer with a specific signature that has been killing and framing innocent men for decades, and now has his sights set on Robert. And Dollar Bill as the killer has known is someone Delaney has been investigating for awhile.

Together, these three begin to compile evidence against Dollar Bill, never realising he’s on the jury, trying to manipulate them.

Mind you, that’s really half the story when it comes to Dollar Bill, and why I still was engrossed in this book despite the Darth-Vader-effect over-telling.

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