Sunday, November 24, 2013

Stains on the Gavel

*Could be some spoilers in this review.*

This is the second book in this series by Charles Massie and I have yet to read the first. What interested me the most about this book was the premise that it told the story about a man that was wrongly imprisoned in Kentucky and how he was able to fight from the inside for his freedom. What I was expecting was a storyline filled with conspiracies, mystery, and intense scenes from the view point of a Sothern prison. What I got was something that reminded me of a prisoner's journal chronicling their incarceration.

Massie does do a very good job at detailing life within the prisons walls and develops his main character, Mark Casey, but outside of that, it was a little, well, boring. Once wrongfully incarcerated, the book is basically a log of his constant transfers between the different county jails and state medical facilities along with flashbacks of his life with the woman who caused all the problems. There was also a great deal of information that doesn't really seem to have any bearing on the main points of the book. One main instance is the intensive IQ testing that Casey is put through at the one medical facility he is transferred to. I didn't really understand the importance of this for the plot. 

I did enjoy the way that Massie created very believable characters within and without the walls of the various prisons and courtrooms being talked about. There were some very good dialogue sequences and some moments that did make me laugh a little with several witty comebacks within some intense situations. But the one thing that made me a little irritated was that there seemed to only be a handful of honest individuals within the legal system that Casey dealt with. I had a hard time believing that the judge from Casey's first trial would first conspire with the prosecutor AND defense attorney to convict on the evidence that was shown in the trial, let alone be so vindictive by a complaint that he would kick start all the problems Casey had while incarcerated.

However, even with all the issues I had with his plotline, I could and would have overlooked some of them if it did not also suffer from a poor editing job. The main bulk of this story is written in first person, which is very difficult to do for long pieces of literature, (I have stated this in previous reviews of other works...often). Within this point of view, the main challenge is to introduce things that the main character is not experiencing, which is difficult because you can only write about what this individual is experiencing, feeling, etc. and nothing else. Massie goes into third person several times with regards to other characters in several chapters. That is a huge pet-peeve of mine. You are not able to switch point of views within a story. If you start out in first person point of view, the entire piece needs to be written in this view point. The other issues I had with this book dealt with the actual proof reading of the piece. There were quotations missing from dialogue in places and at other times too many quotation marks when they were not needed. Some other structure and punctuation issues popped up throughout the book as well and I will not go in to great detail here.

Overall, I thought that the main character was extremely detailed and believable, but the ending was something to be desired. There was no expansion on the part of Massie as to what happened to the woman who was the reason Casey was brought up on drug trafficking charges to begin with. I was at least expecting something terrible to befall her after her new location was discovered, not that she was unhappily married and living in a nice home in New York. Then there was the fact that the judge that caused all the problems Casey had within the prison system just dies. I kind of wished that there was a little more development with respect to the legal ramifications for his actions against Casey. Maybe even a little blurb about how the judge was incarcerated in the same prison system he seemed to have such a great deal of power over. I think that if even a mere fifth of all the prison transfers had been cut out and some of these other unresolved issues explored, it would have seem like a more complete work of fiction.

If you are like me and need a little more detail, mystery, and fun within the pages of the fiction you read, then this book is probably not for you. If you enjoy any type of prison related fiction regardless if it is a mystery or not, then you may like this book.

Also, if you do not like a great deal of foul language or some scenes with strong sexual content, then you may not want to read this book.

Rating 2 out of 5.

I was given a copy of this book by the author per Bostick Communications; I was not paid to give this review.

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