Hubert Crouch | Cried For No One | The Word
A grave robbing leads to a courtroom battle between two Texas attorneys.Twenty-one-year-old Alexis Stone, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, has been seeing Senator Talmadge Worthman on the sly for seven months, even though he’s reluctant to divorce before his re-election. After arguing with the senator, Alexis parties hard and dies, presumably of a stroke or heart attack, and she’s buried at Caring Oaks. Later, her disinterred body is found in a church sanctuary beneath an upside-down crucifix, the building desecrated by graffiti indicative of a satanic ritual. Alexis’ parents hire attorney Cal Connors to sue Caring Oaks for failure to provide adequate security at the cemetery. Known in legal circles as “The Lone Wolf,” Cal is a plaintiff’s dream, easily winning case after case. The son of a steelworker, he practices law with his daughter at their prestigious firm in Fort Worth. Most recently, he won a multimillion-dollar verdict against Samson Pharmaceuticals, makers of an antidepressant tied to a murder–suicide. The high-profile case attracts Leah Rosen, an investigative reporter for Texas Matters, who’s suspicious that several of Cal’s latest victories have been against drug companies accused of “manufacturing” clinical test data. Defending Caring Oaks in the civil suit is attorney Jace Forman, whose son Matt was with Alexis the night she died, possibly of foul play. In the well-plotted tale, the author adeptly explores the complex interrelationships among politicos, the media, and various legal and law enforcement professionals. There are a number of thriller chestnuts, too: a 40-something, married senator having the aforementioned illicit fling with a young lovely; a hungry reporter intent on cementing her reputation with a cutting exposé; a flashy, ethically challenged attorney who’ll stop at nothing to win; and a hardworking father who wants to renew ties with his estranged son. Among the motley cast of characters, no one stands out in the center of the action, so the suspense is minimal. Most intriguing is image-conscious Cal, supremely confident in his black Stetson, bolo tie and ostrich-skin boots, despite his unconventional, possibly emotionally incestuous relationship with daughter, Christine. The connection between the title and the narrative is a bit unclear, and a courtroom confession doesn’t quite ring true, but it’s nothing to sink the narrative. Overall, it reads like the first in a series, boding well for potential future installments with further development and greater focus.Well-crafted with an authentic Southwestern setting, despite missing a compelling central character.
Crouch (Cried For No One, 2013) returns to the high-stakes world of Texas civil litigation with the next Jace Forman thriller.When a grieving couple attempting to bury their veteran daughter is confronted by a group of fanatical Christian protesters outside her funeral, they go to well-respected Fort Worth attorney Jace Forman for justice. In nearby Austin, dogged legal reporter Leah Rosen, hot on the trail of a star lawyer who may be using false evidence to win cases, finds a dead fish in her bed, the word “STOP” written in lipstick across her pillowcase.For help in their respective investigations, both Forman and Rosen turn to virtuoso PI Jackie McLaughlin to get them the answers they need. Looming over everything is Forman’s rival, Cal Connors, the subject of Rosen’s article and a man who doesn’t feel the need to play by the rules when the system is stacked against his clients. Last assembled in Crouch’s previous novel, the cast is back for an even greater task: challenging the limitations of speech, religion and the First Amendment. Crouch is a fine practitioner of the courtroom drama. He knows just how to bring a legal case to life without having to dress it up or dumb it down. His prose is precise and clear, pushing readers forward with an understated elegance. Characters—heroes, villains and those in between—are fully formed creatures with personal hungers, demons and large helpings of Texas personality. Since pacing is right on point, the pages all but turn themselves as each scene builds on the next, working outward in a spiderweb of connections, complications and coincidences. The story gets bigger as it goes along, with Crouch keeping it skillfully managed the whole way. Inspired by news headlines, this timely novel illustrates how even the simplest seeming disputes are complex in the eyes of the law. Serving justice, it turns out, sometimes requires a creative strategy.A topical, lively legal thriller.