Defence lawyer Will Harris has barely recovered from being hospitalised after going rogue in his first book, Blood Witness, when he and his lover Eva are attacked and threatened by strangers who tell him: “Back off.” Will, who doesn’t enjoy danger as much as it enjoys him, would oblige, if he knew what he was supposed to back off from: he’s already busy fighting a complaint accusing him of some suspicious activity he’s not entirely innocent of, and grappling with his newly minted law firm, a business partner who is never around, and defence cases he’d prefer to avoid. Now, of course, he’s got something else on his plate—finding out who assaulted them and caused Eva to flee from Will and the violence that surrounds him.
If you’ve ever wondered how it feels to be a defence lawyer, read this and wonder no longer: if it’s half as complicated and tense as this book, we should all just stick to being armchair lawyers, even if the pay isn’t as good. Will’s exhausting day-to-day life of interviews and solving murky problems into crystal-clear defences and juggling any kind of private life is something else – and obviously fictionalised enough to be interesting (Will is a media darling post his adventures in the Ned-Kelly-shortlisted Blood Witness, after all), while retaining enough paperwork out of the ears to be realistic, if not slightly depressing for trees. This is one for Melbourne locals – as Will gallivants around town from east to west and north to south, getting into crashes in the Burnley Tunnel and going for drinks in bars as familiar as the one you were in just last weekend, it’s a heady tale of local intrigue that spans contemporary Melbourne and a grim part of Australia’s history. I often take notes on my phone when I’m reading, to help me remember good lines (or make up my own! Like this one just now.) I wrote moral quandary on its own, because idea infuses every page of the book. Will is a serious man who tries to do good in a career and a world that seems desperate to stop him. And he’s not some shining white knight, here to save everyone from his ethically stabled high horse—he twists himself in knots that can’t be untangled without assistance. The legal world is one soaked in privilege, with all the good and evil that come with it, and Will, with his family ties to the industry, is part of the problem. What can he overcome to prove himself, and what lines will he refuse to break?