Many second novels are simply rewrites of the first novel. Edgar award winner David Ellis avoids that pitfall, and takes us on a curvy journey through the jungles of political maneuvering into a dramatic courtroom setting as one attorney attempts to prove that he has been framed. Although the clues were all there to sort out the person behind the frame, I totally missed them. If you pay more attention than I did, you should have fun with this book. Jon Soliday is a specialized political operative: He knows the ins and outs of the election laws and helps the regular Democrats in a Chicago-like city eliminate their primary rivals and Republican opponents. But his real connection is to the power in the state senate, Grant Tully. Now, Tully is running for governor against a strong Republican who's ahead in the polls. Soliday's life is coming unraveled. His wife recently left him. A good friend has just shot and killed a burglar in his home, and Soliday had to help get the police off his tail. And he's just found an explosive mistake in the filing papers for Tully's Republican opponent. Then, dispatched to see another political operative, Soliday ends up being framed for a murder he did not commit. And the bodies don't stop there! Wishing to sweep the prosecution off-balance with a quick trial, the story develops at break-neck speed as the case culminates in some of the most revealing courtroom drama I have read in many years. You'll probably stay up late to finish this book, if you are like me. Ultimately, the book is soiled by many sins of commission and omission that provide the catalyst for many of the events in the story. As a reader, I felt like my hands were dirty by the time I finished the book. I suppose I felt that way because the story's ending doesn't seem to come down hard enough on the wrongdoers. The ending suggests that ultimately we can do whatever we can get away with. I didn't care for that message. As I finished the book, I thought about how each of us has a unique point of view about what's going on. I was reminded of how valuable it can be to ask others what they think is happening so that I can develop a better perspective.
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In David Ellis' second legal thriller he once again delivers a very well-written, very intelligent legal thriller, with strong, well-developed characters and crisp, realistic dialog. The plot involves big-city politics woven into an intriguing, compelling murder mystery, and has many surprises that will keep you guessing until the very end. My one problem with Life Sentence, which prevents me from giving it a 5-star rating, is that Ellis tended to go on for too long a time before bringing the story to its, ultimately, very satisfying and surprising conclusion. In my opinion, Life Sentence would have been an even better book had Ellis followed the old adage, "less is more."