Abiding Conviction is a fast-paced, legal whodunnit that keeps the reader guessing until the closing pages. Although this is the third book in the “Dutch Francis” series, it can be read as a standalone novel.
The story follows the travails of Dutch Francis, an attorney who reluctantly agrees to defend a judge accused of murdering his wife. On the eve of trial, Dutch’s own wife goes missing. Dutch grapples with an ineffective police department, insinuations that he was responsible for her disappearance, and the most challenging trial of his life. He also entertains lingering suspicions that his illustrious client isn’t being completely honest with him—making it challenging to present a credible theory of the case.
In a feat of multitasking that would put most attorneys to shame, Dutch desperately pursues leads in the search for his wife, while also tenaciously chasing evidence to exonerate his client. His methods are unorthodox but effective—albeit possibly not sanctioned by the Bar Associations’ Ethics Committee—and the reader can’t help rooting for him in his pursuit of the truth.
This is not to say Dutch is a perfect protagonist—in the opening pages he expresses dismay at his wife considering an abortion, in an exchange that didn’t age well following the Dobbs decision. And any criminal defense lawyer would be horrified at the point Dutch volunteers to take a polygraph to clear suspicion that he murdered his wife, or when he engages in some light trespass to confront potential suspects in person.
The writing is at its best in the courtroom scenes—likely because the author is an experienced attorney and a Superior Court Judge. From voir dire to evidentiary objections, the thorough understanding of trial procedure lends a sense of realism that sets the novel apart from most legal fiction. It’s rare for fictional lawyers to actually lay the foundation for witness testimony, for instance. The novel also deftly handles the strategic risks of engaging expert witnesses for hire.
The narrative twists and turns at a breakneck pace, culminating in an unexpected and clever conclusion. Overall, Abiding Conviction is an enjoyable romp, ideal for any reader who likes John Grisham but wishes he had a better grasp of criminal procedure. 4/5 stars.
About the Author:
Sarah Hoffman is an environmental associate at Venable’s San Francisco office. She has counseled clients attempting to build residential projects in the Bay Area, and has litigated wrongful denials of such projects by government agencies. Sarah currently serves as the Secretary of BASF’s Barristers Club.