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"You can't handle the truth!" - Colonel Jessup, in the film A FEW GOOD MEN

HIGH CRIMES by Joseph Finder is an above average legal thriller that's been compared favorably with the 1992 courtroom drama, A Few Good Men [DVD].

In HIGH CRIMES, high-octane defense attorney and Harvard Law professor Claire Chapman finds herself defending Tom, her husband of four years, against a government charge of mass murder for allegedly slaughtering eighty-seven unarmed El Salvadorian villagers thirteen years earlier when Tom, then known as Sergeant Ron Kubik, was a member of a black-ops Army Special Forces unit on a mission to eliminate the leftist guerrillas who'd recently killed seven Americans. Then Kubik deserted and disappeared from the Fed's radar. Until now.

Of course, Claire had no knowledge of her husband's previous life. And don't those super-secret guv'mint goon squads just leave behind the peskiest loose ends?

This novel, published in 1998 and one of the author's earliest, is, in retrospect, a courtroom potboiler that might otherwise get lost in the multitude of legal thrillers published before and since if it wasn't for a particularly unexpected ending that would seem to, and did, lend the story to a Big Screen adaptation (High Crimes [DVD] [2002]). Nothing like a lucrative film deal, eh Joe?

My admiration for the book's concluding plot twist does not, however, negate the fact that it positively screamed reminder of the Music Box [DVD], an excellent and powerful 1989 film starring Jessica Lange as a Chicago lawyer compelled by familial love and devotion to defend her aging father from a government charge of war crimes committed during World War II when he was ostensibly commander of a Hungarian fascist death squad that murdered Jews and Gypsies. Indeed, HIGH CRIMES reminded me so much of MUSIC BOX in broad outline that I feel compelled to knock a star off the former by a niggling sense of a lack of originality. But, it's still a pretty good read.

Fifteen years after HIGH CRIMES first appeared, there's a certain technological quaintness about it that's endearing. Claire might have found Google to be enormously handy, if it had existed back then. And she has a cell phone with an extendable antenna. Cool! Where can I get one of those?
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on 8 August 2006
I sense that Finder remains slightly under-rated but he's done it again for me with this one. The novel has its imperfections but is a good, exciting read - I have, however, seen this story's formula elsewhere (but can't remember where!). It is, to be fair, one of his earlier efforts, but his trademark pace is there in spades, starting from the first few pages.
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on 26 March 2002
John Finder, like others who write of the American military justice system (Aaron Sorkin, 'A Few Good Men,' Norm Harris, 'Fruit of a Poisonous Tree,' Herman Wouk, 'The Caine Mutiny: A Novel of World War II,' or John Katzenbach, 'Hart's War') understands that a military court, unlike the civil court, is not a democracy. A civil lawyer who is foolish enough to venture into a military court, unprepared and unaware, quickly learns what it is like to be a fish-out-of-water. That military tradition and protocol have much to do with winning a case. The clear victor is not always the winner.
John Finder has done an excellent job of portraying a civil lawyer who finds herself caught up in military-courts martial proceedings. Why do we find these military justice related plots intriguing? All of the books mentioned above, with the exception of 'Fruit of a Poisonous Tree,' and I would not be surprised of Hollywood had its eye on Norm Harris's thriller as well, have been made into movies. Add the popular CBS TV series JAG to the mix.
The premise of the story has the husband of a lawyer arrested for the murder that took place when he was in the military, many years prior. The woman enlists the aid of an aging ex-Army JAG, or Judge Advocate General(technically he would be a Judge Advocate, as there is only one JAG). If one is about to venture into unfamiliar jungles then one must hire a guide. Right? So this makes sense, and in so doing John Finder brings credibility to the entire storyline.
Like all of the aforementioned books in this review, High Crimes is well written and well researched. The dialogue is well delivered and the stories characters are well drawn. If you would like to get a taste of how the other half of our legal system works, buy and read, High Crimes. Cammy Diaz-lawyer
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on 14 December 2014
All of Joseph Finders books are worth reading. Much better than the movies that are mad about of them. I read this after seeing the movie and it was much much better.He is an author that I look out for their new books coming out and would order automatically
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on 7 October 2010
Excellent fast paced read, very well written. For some reason I could see the conclusion coming, but it didnt spoil my enjoyment of the book. The book is not quite as good as Joseph Finder's Paranoia, but still worth reading.
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High flying Harvard Professor Claire has her life shattered when husband Tom is arrested for crimes committed while in military service. Apparently everything she knew about him was a constructed lie and she now finds herself using her legal expertise defending him in a military court where every card is stacked against her and she no longer feels she knows the man in the dock. A film of the book was released in 2002.

This starts off like a Harlan Coben or Lynwood Barclay - a mystery/family secret and then moves into a courtroom drama, albeit a military courtroom drama.

This has some minor flaws in terms of logic, dialogue and some weak characterisation, but these are as I say minor. This starts off with a real bust of pace and energy and then settles down to a fairly standard courtroom drama where our maverick lawyers battle against the book machine of the military (think A Few Good Men) and the Government. It's not bad and an easy way to while away a couple of hours, but it could have been much better if the author had perhaps explored more deeply some things he touches on (getting a guilty man off on a point of law, rights within a legal system and so on). An untaxing and easy read.
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on 8 January 2015
not as good as the film, unusual for me as i always prefer the books
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on 3 October 2014
excellent book - joseph finder is a brilliant writer
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on 19 September 2015
Love the author. On time, good quality.
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on 2 September 2006
Hats off to J. Finder who has written a well researched thriller on military justice. I personally did not rate this one as high as his other books because I guessed the end easily early on and those who have read Presumed Innocent by Turow will know what I mean.

Still, a VERY good read, perfect if you have some time off or to kill. Surefire value as usual, good job M. Finder.
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