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BOOK REVIEW: Shadow of Power by Steve Martini

July 21, 2010

I enjoy a good legal thriller or suspense novel, and I am always looking for a new one to read. I had never, surprisingly enough, read any Steve Martini novels. The novel was okay but it did not make an overwhelming impression. If I had not read other reviews, I am not sure I would jump up to buy another novel by Mr. Martini.

The book started with some interesting scenes, just vague enough to leave you wondering what would happen. At the introduction of the “Jefferson Letter”, I still held some hope this could be crafted in a credible way while also gaining momentum with the suspense. Unfortunately, this did not happen. I was disappointed in the premise that the language already existing in the Constitution would incite so many riots and public unrest. I just don’t find this very plausible. I would have agreed that it might create much discussion as well as some interesting debates – just not to the level that the author created in the novel. As the book progressed, I realized that the “Jefferson Letter” bit would also stretch the limits of credibility. The book made a good point on this, since the characters spoke of it not being necessary for the letter to be authentic to be able to create the furor it seemed capable of generating. In this way, the letter (whether found to be fraud or not) would at least have to fit within my limits of credibility as a reader – and it failed.

I did like many of the characters in the book – even if I didn’t like what they represented, I thought the author did a good job of fleshing them out and making them interesting. This is with one exception: Trisha Scott. I found her flat and uninteresting. Her character, along with the unreal plot twists at the end, made me sigh and want to throw up my hands in frustration a couple of times in the last chapter. Her character just was not believable to me. On the other hand, I loved Herman. I laughed out loud several times at his courtroom scenes, and I found myself mentally casting him with some Hollywood favorites. If a character “works” for me, that’s something I end up doing.

I also liked the courtroom scenes in general. The descriptions were complete without being boring. The inner complexities of criminal litigation were explored without unduly boring the reader as well. The entire courtroom section of the book was extremely well crafted. Since that took up a large part of the book, it made the difference for me in a rating of “okay” versus “I didn’t like it.”

All in all, I enjoyed the book. For a reader wanting a light read, this could be an enjoyable diversion. For someone looking for an intense legal thriller, your better bet would be a different novel. For me – I am going to at least try another novel by Steve Martini and give the writer a second chance to impress.

My conclusion:  A solid “okay” in my book; grab it at the used bookstore or borrow a copy (library or a friend).

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