Review: ‘Juror #3’ by James Patterson and Nancy Allen

Juror #3Juror #3 by James Patterson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When a reader buys a book that appears to be a novel, s/he has every right to expect a novel. That’s not what we get with “Juror #3.” Many novels include the words “a novel” on the cover and title page. This one doesn’t. Yet, the presentation implies a book-length story instead of a work that is essentially two short stories with many of the same characters. Without providing a spoiler here, suffice it to say that when the first court case suddenly ends midway through the book, many readers will be disappointed.

The premise is interesting. Fresh out of law school, Ruby Bozart returns to Rosedale, Mississippi where she spent part of her childhood living on the other side of the tracks. She hangs up a shingle, expecting to get her start by practising family law. To her surprise, a judge assigns her to handle a high-profile murder case that appears to be a slam dunk for the district attorney. A black football star has been accused of murdering a white lady at a local country club where he was working as a waiter. He was found with the victim, his hands and clothes covered with her blood.

Bozart is a compelling character. She’s smart and determined to fully represent her well-known client rather than walk through the case, and though she’s made her first friend in town–a fry cook at the local diner–she’s going to need substantial legal advice to go up against an experienced district attorney. As usual, there’s more here than meets the eye, including help from unexpected quarters: a savvy and out-of-the-blue law partner.

As a true novel, the book’s first story would have had more depth and the support characters would have been more fully developed. However, all of the characters are real within the book’s theme and setting, so Patterson fans won’t have any trouble staying up past their bedtimes to find out just what the deal is with the man sitting in the third chair in the jury box.

Once all is said and done and the case ends, Bozart’s former fiancé, the rich Lee Green, Jr., who comes from old money, asks Ruby to defend him against charges he murdered a prostitute in Vicksburg. He claims he’s innocent even though he was found passed out in a hotel room in bed with the dead call girl. Once again, Ruby is facing what appears to be a slam dunk for the prosecution. To make matters worse, the case has gotten so much press coverage in Vicksburg, Ruby doesn’t see how it’s possible for Lee to get a fair trial even if she really wanted to defend him, which she doesn’t.

After all, their engagement ended because he was unfaithful to her. On top of that, his family never accepted her as worthy of him. She takes the case anyway. Like the first story, Ruby shows that in spite of her paltry courtroom experience, she can maintain her poise in a battle against an experienced district attorney who’s just as smug as Lee’s family. Yet she needs more help figuring this case out than she did with the first case. That is to say, while she has gut-feeling suspicions about the prostitute’s death, her partner handles most of the “heavy lifting” that gets Ruby out of a life-threatening jam.

The second story contains many compelling twists and turns, but in general–in these kinds of books–one expects the protagonist to be the hero of the story. It’s probable that Ruby wouldn’t have survived to the end of the second case without her partner’s intervention. For many fans, this is going to weaken the story.

Both stories could have worked on their own had they been presented as short stories even though each of them needed a little more depth even within Patterson’s trademark fast-paced style. The book would have been better if it had been presented openly as two stories. What a shame that it wasn’t put together that way.

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Malcolm

Briefly Noted: ‘On The Big Rivers’

On the Big Rivers: From Three Forks, Montana to New Orleans Louisiana by  Richard E. Messer, with Jerry D. Sanders, Genoa House (Feb 21, 2015), 190 pp., photographs.

bigriversRivers are the veins of the Earth. I’ve seen the Missouri and the Mississippi from my car and from the air. But to travel them: that would be the experience to savor and write about as author William Least Heat-Moon wrote about his trip across the U.S. by boat in River Horse in 1999. Now, here’s a canoe trip to savor.

From the Publisher

“Canoeing from the source of the Missouri River high in the mountains of the Continental Divide down the rapids and over the dams of the upper Missouri to its confluence with the Mississippi and on down its broad waters to New Orleans, 3,800 miles, two young men undertake a voyage of adventure that every young person talks about, but few take. Travel with them in a time before cell phones and GPS as they are initiated into the age old perils of nature and explore the historic river towns along their route.

“Experience through vivid, first person story telling, the physical and emotional challenges they meet and overcome in their encounters on this pioneering journey down the two greatest rivers of America. This exciting narrative provides not only a pristine view of the beauties of these rivers as they were fifty years ago, but also dramatizes the damage we have done in contaminating, straightening, and commercializing our once bounteous water resources. Share this dream of inspiring adventure and experience the pioneering spirit that still lives in every young heart.”

You may also like: ‘On the Big Rivers’ traces voyage of discovery in the Bowling Green State University News, tells how a trip taken in 1962 has now become a book.

Messer is also the author of Dark Healing, a collection of poems published in 2013.

–Malcolm

KIndle cover 200x300Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the upcoming novella “Conjure Woman’s Cat” set in the Florida Panhandle in the 1950s days of the KKK and Jim Crow.

 

 

 

Old Man River

French Broad River, North Carolina – M. R. Campbell photo

Science tells us that 2.5% of the Earth’s water is fresh water, that only 1.3% of that fresh water is surface water (as opposed to ground water, glaciers and ice caps), and that .46% of that surface water can be found in rivers. Using the numbers from Igor Shiklomanov’s work in 1993, rivers contain 2,120 cubic kilometers of the Earth’s 1,338,000,000 cubic kilometers of water.

How fascinated we are with this 2,120 cubic kilometers of water. We see its beauty, we feel its impact (especially during droughts and floods), and we find ways around it or over it. The statistics relating to water can be staggering. In the U.S., the Mississippi alone drains 40% of the 48 contiguous states, or 1,243,000 square miles.

As a novelist, I follow a long tradition of using the symbolism of rivers in my work. In my contemporary fantasy Sarabande, rivers symbolize change, movement and journeys. Other authors have used rivers to symbolize time, strength, danger, freedom, spirituality, eternity, transportation, food, renewal and a rather endless list of other meanings.

Malcolm on float trip

Here are a few of my favorite river quotations for your labor day weekend:

  • “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” — Heraclitus
  • “Time is the substance from which I am made. Time is a river which carries me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire.” — Jorge Luis Borges
  • “A river seems a magic thing. A magic, moving, living part of the very earth itself—for it is from the soil, both from its depth and from its surface, that a river has its beginning.” — Laura Gilpin
  • “It is only in appearance that time is a river. It is rather a vast landscape and it is the eye of the beholder that moves.” – -Thornton Wilder
  • “I am an intelligent river which has reflected successively all the banks before which it has flowed by meditating only on the images offered by those changing shores.” — Victor Hugo
  • “A good river is nature’s life work in song.” — Mark Helprin
  • “He who postpones the hour of living is like the rustic who waits for the river to run out before he crosses.” — Horace
  • “Ol’ man river, dat ol’ man river, He must know sumpin’, but don’t say nothin’, He just keeps rollin’, He keeps on rollin’ along.” — Oscar Hammerstein II
  • “The miracle of light pours over the green and brown expanse of saw grass and of water, shining and slowly moving, the grass and water that is the meaning and the central fact of the Everglades. It is a river of grass.” — Marjory Stoneman Douglas
  • “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.
    I am haunted by waters.” — Norman Maclean

–Malcolm

A heroine’s journey for your Kindle