3 out of 4 stars
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The world is, unfortunately, a scary place that is filled with hate, racism, bigotry, and prejudice. The United States of America, especially post 9/11, is no exception to this statement. Betrayal of Justice by Mark M. Bello is a political crime/thriller novel that takes place in a modern-day America eerily (and this was indeed the intent) representative of the current U.S. serving leadership. This novel takes a somber look at how one defines a terrorist, how prejudices could affect criminal investigations, and even more scarily, how the skewed views of the American political administration have the potential to derail the entire justice system. Although this book is technically the second in a series, there is absolutely no need to read the first one to enjoy the second. Apart from the odd reference to a previous criminal case making up the first book, Betrayal of Justice is entirely a stand-alone novel.
Betrayal of Justice begins in the wake of the victory of the now U.S. President Ronald John, who came to power with the intention to “make America pure again.” One of the main campaign promises that John made was to sign and implement a “Muslim ban” which includes stopping travel/immigration from several Muslim countries, hunting down and deporting illegal Muslim immigrants, and even putting into question the status of many legal Muslim immigrants. The novel itself takes place in Dearborn, Michigan, where there is one of the largest Muslim communities in America. After President John announces his policy changes, one white supremacist in Dearborn takes it into his own hands to terrorize that community and even firebomb the local mosque. Arya Khan, an upstanding Muslim citizen of Dearborn, starts unofficially investigating the attacks herself. While watching a suspect, she witnesses the murder of the very person who attacked her mosque. Throwing her prejudices aside, she runs to help the man. When the police arrive, they find a Muslim woman hovering over a white supremacist, elbow deep in blood, holding the murder weapon. To the Dearborn police, there is a motive, she is literally caught red-handed, and it seems to be a clear-cut case, despite Arya’s protests otherwise. To add insult to injury, the president initiates deportation procedures for Arya’s parents under the new laws since they have raised a suspected murderer. Will justice prevail for Arya and her parents or will the local, national, and religious prejudices allow an innocent woman to be convicted?
This book is attractive to a variety of readers for a variety of reasons. Lovers of the crime/political thriller genres will get a kick out of the action scenes, the forensic scenes, and the ultimate quest for justice. There is just enough action to keep the reader glued to the pages, there is excellent detail in the criminal investigations to capture one's interest, and there is more than enough suspense to cast doubt on the reader's hopes for a positive conclusion. The courtroom scenes are excellently written and it is plainly evident that the author has intimate experience with legal proceedings. Finally, and what I like the most about this book, is the message that it sends to all readers. The overarching moral is that of religious tolerance, and in particular, the absurdity of placing a blanket label of "terrorist" to all members of a given faith. Although this book specifically focuses on the issues plaguing Muslim Americans, it is made perfectly clear that the message is the same for any faith, race, or group of human beings. Bello takes a very bold step in blatantly making connections to the current President of the United States (even the name Ronald is used to parallel Donald) and his policies, but no matter your political point of view, you would be hard-pressed to argue with the message of this book.
There were, however, a few areas where this book fell short. Even though Bello was a literary wizard when it came to the courtroom and forensic investigations, he seemed to struggle when it came to talking about technology. When he was attempting to be satisfactorily descriptive about computers, the language used simply came out awkward and not at all natural. Similarly, Bello included cyber specialists in both the police and criminal defense teams, but their "expertise" was nothing more than creative google searches. Cyber experts, both in private investigation firms and with the police, would have a much larger arsenal in their digital toolbox than mere internet searches. Finally, and what I disliked the most about this book, is how it ended. I'm not talking about the conflict resolution part of the novel, but rather how the last few chapters seemed to drag on. Once the main plot was essentially resolved, there were a few chapters remaining that felt like they were put in as filler since they brought nothing additional to the story.
I really was conflicted when deciding what rating to give this book. I really enjoyed its pertinence to today's politics, the message that it sent, and the way the crime story played out. In the end, however, there was enough that bothered me about Bello's work to merit the removal of one measly star. I give this book 3 out of 4 stars with the caveat that I was very close to giving it perfect marks. I fully recommend this book to those who are fans of the crime genre and for those that enjoy a strong message about religious tolerance. If you are the type who really don't like books about the wrongly accused, have strong political and/or religious opinions against the Muslim faith, or don't appreciate criticisms of the current presidential administration, this book will not be for you.
Betrayal of Justice
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