3 out of 4 stars
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Jurisdiction Denied by Jack Gold and Marc Debbaudt is a riveting legal drama filled with intrigue, drug peddling, and several murders. Beyond that readers are given an in-depth and thought-provoking look at a crumbling justice system being brought to its knees by misguided new-age law enforcement philosophies.
Sylmar Juvenile Judge Marty Goldstein laments about the new rules that limit his ability to do his job efficiently. Though he is somewhat aware of the disorder that surrounds his juvenile hall, he has no idea of the depths of depravity and the sinister activities that have taken over the hall once again. Tipped off by a court case he was presiding over, he decides to investigate, but with the surveillance equipment and footage manipulated, will he ever find out what’s been going on and who is behind it? To add to his problems, an old enemy, he and his deputy district attorney, brought down a couple of years ago is back on the rise. Knowing that it’s only a matter of time before their enemies exert revenge, he and his deputy stay on the lookout for any signs of trouble. However, despite their caution, their enemy is slowly closing in on them; will the judge and his deputy D. A remain unscathed? On the other side of the plane, Hilda, a femme fatale who has ties to the North Korean drug cartel is out on a killing spree. Hoping to cut ties with her employees, she hopes the successful completion of her final mission will do just that. But, what's her last assignment about? And, will her employers agree to let her go? Given the slew of murder victims she’s left in her wake, will the police ever capture the elusive Hilda?
One of the first things that stood out to me while reading this novel was the bold, unhinged, and sometimes hilarious thoughts of the first-person narrator (Judge Barry Goldstein). His intellectual musings and discussions with other characters made me appreciate the significance and merit of the arguments presented against specific bills passed into law that afford criminals lesser and lesser consequences for their actions. It was interesting to learn how the bills were worded in such a way that would appeal to the public, yet the results of such bills were anything but beneficial to the safety of the general public and for those working in law enforcement.
Judge Marty Goldstein is a highly complex, multidimensional character with a strong personality. His voice came across as authentic: his self-awareness and acknowledgment of his own bias and sometimes hypocritical ways made him a believable and fascinating character. Marty’s deputy district attorney, Nathan Bartholomew, is a brilliant, astute, no-nonsense character who brought so much life into the courtroom sessions by expertly dissecting the offenders’ defense. Hilda, who I liked to call Madame Serial Killer, is ruthless and selfish; however, even though we get a glimpse of her backstory, she’s not a well-fleshed out character. Despite that, her role adds a certain level of thrill and intensity to the story. I nervously held my breath whenever her story came into focus as I wondered who her next target/ victim would be.
Through the judge’s narration, I got a deep understanding of the inner workings of the justice system. What’s more, I liked that the story and the authors writing style allowed me to dive into the unfiltered thoughts of the judge whether he was in the confines of his private office space or the courtroom deliberating a case. All of this added much more insight on different aspects of the story and of course the main character. The narrative also alternated focus between the judge’s first-person narration to the stories of Hilda, the assassin, and a few other characters. Hilda’s account and encounters with the other characters were written in third-person. I loved how the parallel plots came together towards the end to create a thrilling, action-packed moment.
Another significant aspect of this book is that the authors incorporated some real court cases into the narrative (the names of those involved were changed). All the legal terms and abbreviation used in the story were defined, which made it easy to follow and understand the proceedings and the roles of those present.
This novel is well-written, the narrator’s theatrics and play on words were entertaining. The plot was captivating and the excellent description of characters and place added life to the story. The valuable information about the more recent policies and their effect on the justice system is an integral part of this narrative. I also liked that some public figures (Jerry Brown, Kamala Harris, Shirley Weber, etc) involved in pushing for some of the bills were mentioned. I also found it interesting that Brock Turner’s case was mentioned in passing because I was already familiar with so many details about that case.
Though Jurisdiction Denied is the second book in the Jurisdiction Series, it can be read as a standalone. I read this book without having read the first book, and there was not a moment that I felt confused or lost; the authors provided a little bit of a back story and this narrative, for the most part, flowed independent of the first novel/ story.
The only criticism I have about this novel is there seemed to be an instance of repetition where it just seemed like the judge was venting and reiterating the same thing. Another is that I did find numerous errors that must have slipped through editing, such as the use of ‘then’ where it should be ‘than’, ‘how’ instead of has, ‘new’ instead of ‘knew’ and the use of a symbol in place of a comma. I, therefore, rate this novel 3 out of 4 stars. I recommend this book to anyone interested in the debate of ‘incarceration versus rehabilitation’. Those into legal dramas and crime novels will also appreciate this one.
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