3 out of 4 stars
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Unexpected: A Tale of Deception by Peter Alpert is a fictional legal thriller about the ramifications of a local farmer’s truck rollover accident on a damaged country road in rural Colorado. After middle-aged George Schmidt suffers severe injuries, the county might be at fault for not posting a warning sign or previously fixing a road that was in disrepair for a long time. The lawyer he hires suspects local officials of a cover-up to limit their liability. An investigation ensues and there is more than meets the eye, especially when an insurance carrier may be pulling the strings behind the scenes.
The case is given top billing in this tale and it’s certainly an interesting one. The government’s dastardly deeds after the accident are somewhat obvious right from the start, and George is a sympathetic victim every step of the way. His lawyer, Allen Henshaw, is an experienced straight shooter and vows to see justice served. A few of the road commission workers are honorable people, but many of the bad guys are written as slimy, one-note stereotypes.
George’s character is vividly described as a middle-aged, never married farmer whose social life consists of going to church every Sunday and driving into town to have coffee with other farmers. The impact of the accident on his physical and mental state is realistically written and I was very moved by these scenes. I could picture the rural setting of Eagleton with its hardworking, neighborly townspeople and the main gathering place for coffee, where everyone knows everyone else and news travels fast.
The story is told in the first person through the perspective of George’s lawyer. I found this an effective way for the plot to unfold as Allan coordinates an investigation into the county’s shady attempts to limit their liability. Each aspect of the inquiry carries its own set of interesting details. The author is adept at giving just the right amount of information to keep the story moving forward without going off track. I felt like each chapter was a puzzle piece that fit well within the overall storyline. Although the main focus is the investigation, George’s recovery and long-term medical issues are featured periodically and I was given a clear picture of the “face behind the case.”
The writing style is a bit bland and could have used a subtle touch. The author has a habit of telling, rather than showing, the reader points that are obvious, such as the meaning of a person’s comments or demeanor. Still, the plot moves along at a consistent pace and I became completely absorbed in the story.
Although the book is well written, there are two noticeable errors in the story. One is relatively minor, stating the wrong name for the county - Clark County instead of Marlboro County. The other is a major error that is repeated a few times over several pages – referencing an incorrect amount for the defense’s initial settlement offer. The amount is first stated as $150,000; at a later point, the beginning offer is repeatedly referred to as $125,000. This is particularly confusing and distracting since the next offer is less than $150,000 yet is treated like an increase from the initial figure.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. It’s an engrossing page turner with interesting characters. Fans of legal thrillers and one man vs. the government-themed stories will find much to savor here. This is one tale I won’t soon forget.
Unexpected: A Tale of Deception
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