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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Desperate Measures by Kate Wilhelm

Desperate Measures by Kate Wilhelm. New York: St. Martin's Minotaur, 2001. ISBN: 0-312-27663-X

This is the sixth out of eight Barbara Holloway novels that author Kate Wilhelm lists in her personal bibliography. But it's only the first one that I have read. Which means that I have seven more to enjoy! These are the best kinds of books, when you read one, and know right away that you will probably enjoy all the rest, and there are so many more to read.

In this case, the storyline is a good legal thriller in the John Grisham tradition, but with a more intimate, personal touch. And the novel is set in my home state of Oregon, right in the Willamette Valley, where I grew up, albeit a bit further south, in the Eugene area, Springfield, to be precise.

If I have any complaint about the book at all, it is this: the basic storyline is just a bit too extreme, not quite true to ordinary life. Here's the story: The main focus is on Alex, a gifted young man who “just happens” to be horribly disfigured, congenitally so, born without half his face. When his nearest neighbor, an extremely strict, controlling man, who has previously threatened Alex, and calls him “devil spawn,” is found murdered, the suspicion falls on Alex.

Barbara has to use all her skills to turn the weight of the legal system away from her client, given that the natural tendency of anyone who sees him, is one of revulsion and disgust. She assumes that any jury is likely to find him guilty, just because of hie appearance. So my complaint is that this entire situation is artificial, contrived, involving an extraordinary person, not ordinary people going about their ordinary lives. This doesn't make the book any less entertaining, just less innately believable.

Still, definitely recommended for anyone who enjoys legal fiction, and/or the writing of Kate Wilhelm.


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