"Courting Death" is a very unique legal mystery featuring three young people working as law clerks for a famous federal judge.
Melanie, who apparently made an appearance in a previous installment, became obsessed by an accident that occurred several years back, where a clerk fell to her death in a stairwell. The woman’s mother is convinced there was foul play involved, prompting Melanie to do a little sleuthing on the side.
Phil, is a middling character who enjoys his friendships with Melanie and Arthur, but stays fairly clueless about the personal lives of those surrounding him, while he buries himself in work, arguing and discussing the law, while drinking at the local pub.
Arthur, quickly falls in love with his landlady, Suzanne, a widow with a young daughter, but life becomes complicated for him quickly when he finds himself buried in dark death penalty cases, working habeas corpus appeals.
The book follows the trio through their yearlong clerkship, as they learn the true nature of the law, the fine lines, the compromises and the disappointments, as they also make fateful decisions about their future careers and personal lives.
What I liked about the book was that it comes as close to being a pure legal thriller as you are likely to find, in comparison to what is usually classified as a legal thriller these days. The days of courtroom dramas are over, and I have tried to resign myself to that, but if you are going to add ‘Legal’ to the book description, then the story should have something to do with the law.
This story definitely goes into great detail about the process of ‘habeas corpus’ and all the motions, legal wrangling, politics and pressure that encompasses these types of appeals. It is a dark place to dwell, as Arthur learns, and it takes a terrible toll on his psyche.
The legal aspects of the novel certainly gave one a great deal to chew on, and could make this book an interesting book club selection.
The story also includes a mystery, which gave the book an interesting side story, that felt a lot like working through a cold case, which is a favorite trope of mine.
Other than a few blips where the characters make stupid choices that deeply disappointed me, but which I forgave …. eventually, I did appreciate this legal drama and found that even though the story centered around death penalty cases, which of course is a very controversial and pretty depressing topic, the author handled it with aplomb, giving the reader a great deal of insight into the inner workings of these cases, which was what appealed to me most of all about this book.
I also liked the idea of giving the reader two threads to puzzle through, making this book a great choice for legal thriller fans as well as those who enjoy a good mystery.
From an internationally recognized law professor comes the third legal thriller in an exciting mystery series, the Clarkeston Chronicles.
Courting Death finds Melanie Wilkerson (from Cotton, book two of the Clarkeston Chronicles) and Arthur Hughes working uncomfortably together in the chambers of a famous federal judge. While Melanie neglects her duties as a law clerk to investigate the mysterious death of a young woman in the courthouse five years earlier, Arthur wades through the horrific habeas corpus appeals of two prisoners: an infamous serial killer and a pathetic child murder.
Melanie, a Georgia native who returns from law school in the Northeast, hoped to establish a legal reputation that will eclipse her beauty pageant queen past, which she is now desperate to disown. Arthur is a bright but naive Midwesterner who is rapidly seduced by the small Georgia college town of Clarkeston which, to his surprise, comes with an exotic and attractive landlady. The cohort of federal court clerks is completed by Phil Jenkins, a Stanford graduate from San Francisco who tries his best to balance the personalities of his volatile colleagues.
Living and working in bucolic Clarkeston comes with a price. In Courting Death, Arthur, Melanie, and Phil are confronted with the extremes of human mortality, both in and outside the legal system, in ways that they could never have expected or prepared for.