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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Review : Gospel by Sydney Bauer

Title : Gospel
Author: Sydney Bauer
Publisher: Macmillan Australia
Date Published: 2007
ISBN-13 : 9781405038027
Sub-Genre: Legal / Political Thriller
Protagonist : David Cavanaugh

A daringly shocking conspiracy to murder an incredibly popular politician is the premise behind Sydney Bauer's second deeply compelling political / legal thriller Gospel. This is an ambitious thriller that tackles a crisis of monumental proportions and delivers an unforgettable story that is as unpredictable as it is enjoyable.

All that being said, it took me a little while to get into the flow of the story with plenty of preliminary ground to cover in setting up the various disparate threads. Once we are introduced (and reintroduced for those who've read Undertow) to the characters and caught up with their inter-relationships with each other, the story fairly races ahead.

David Cavanaugh is a Boston defence attorney and is asked to represent the man he considers he dislikes most in the world. Professor Stuart Montgomery has just been accused of murdering Vice President Tom Bradshaw and his wife has turned to Cavanaugh for help. Karin Montgomery hasn't spoken to David Cavanaugh since she walked out on their marriage without a word of explanation. Cavanaugh has to somehow put his personal feelings aside so that he can represent a man who he honestly believes is innocent. He also has to somehow break the fact that he has taken the case on to his girlfriend.

We know that the Vice-President has been murdered by a power-packed gang of 4. The conspirators have taken the codenames Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and have set themselves a dual-edged goal of gaining money and power in extreme proportions. Their meticulous planning looks as though at least 1 of them is destined to reach the most powerful position in the country.

Once a drug addict, the murder is made to look as though the Vice President has succumbed to his addiction again and has accidentally overdosed. But this is quickly discarded for the more damning possibility that his physician has administered a deadly dose of Oxycontin knowing it would kill him.

Despite a solid case against Montgomery put together by FBI Assistant Director in Charge Antonio Ramirez, detectives with the Boston Police Department have their doubts. Lieutenant Joe Mannix - friend of David Cavanaugh's - leads the doubters and is forced by his own peace of mind to open a parallel, secret inquiry.

The VP is only the first in a series of murders to take place around the country, all of which can be connected with his death and the plot of the Gospel IV as the conspirators have come to be known. Being seen to be connected to the case suddenly becomes dangerous to your health and no-one appreciates this more than David Cavanaugh.

Building from the shock of the opening murder we are given time to digest the fallout that is to come. Past relationships form an important part of the emotional turmoil surrounding the case and Bauer takes her time in impressing how difficult it is on all concerned. But the careful lead up pays huge dividends with a back half of monumental proportions that manages to take every idea that you've formed and turns it on its ear.

At times the dialogue struck me as overly melodramatic with turns of phrase scattered here and there that I simply couldn't imagine being used anywhere in the real world and this impacted enough to be annoyingly distracting. But the story is so well plotted and came together with such impeccable timing that it overshadows any of those small quibbles.

No legal thriller would be complete without its share of gripping courtroom scenes and, while the quantity of such scenes is not high, the quality most certainly is. One show-stopping witness follows the next in what turns out to be a very entertaining evidentiary hearing.

This is a legal thriller with a myriad pleasing aspects that makes it unique and fresh. The book is blessed with complex and interesting personal relationships, villains that are assholes just begging for a good kick in the teeth (lets face it, we all love to hate the bad guys and these bad guys make it easy to do). To top it all off, the ending is well worth waiting for with a series of ingenious twists thrown in for good measure.

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