Friday, May 17, 2019

Confessions of an Innocent Man - David R. Dow

Summary: A thrillingly suspenseful debut novel, and a fierce howl of rage that questions the true meaning of justice.

Rafael Zhettah relishes the simplicity and freedom of his life. He is the owner and head chef of a promising Houston restaurant. A pilot with open access to the boundless Texas horizon. A bachelor, content with having few personal or material attachments that ground him. Then, lightning strikes. When he finds Tieresse--billionaire, philanthropist, sophisticate, bombshell--sitting at one of his tables, he also finds his soul mate and his life starts again. And just as fast, when she is brutally murdered in their home, when he is convicted of the crime, when he is sentenced to die, it is all ripped away. But for Rafael Zhettah, death row is not the end. It is only the beginning. Now, with his recaptured freedom, he will stop at nothing to deliver justice to those who stole everything from him.

This is a heart-stoppingly suspenseful, devastating, page-turning debut novel. A thriller with a relentless grip that wants you to read it in one sitting. David R. Dow has dedicated his life to the fight against capital punishment--to righting the horrific injustices of the death penalty regime in Texas. He delivers the perfect modern parable for exploring our complex, uneasy relationships with punishment and reparation in a terribly unjust world. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

My Review: It’s no surprise that with the uptick in podcasts and TV shows and various other media that focus on wrongfully accused people that a book like this would come to fruition, nor is it a surprise that this book is written by a law professor who has strong views on the subject. I myself have been sucked into this current wave of podcasts and shows that focus on the wrongfully accused, and so this book is right up my alley. I think it’s one of those things that we take for granted—we have a great legal system in a lot of ways, and we feel comfortable letting that legal system “do its job,” per se, but we don’t necessarily think about how that job is done or who it’s taking advantage of. We certainly don’t want to consider that maybe the legal system isn’t doing things the right way. However, I think that I’m not the only one who has had more than a few second thoughts when regarding the legal system and those who are wrongfully accused.

This is not a true story. It’s completely fiction, written in first person. This is unlike normal first person fiction, however. The writing felt so personal and so internal that it’s almost like reading a well-kept journal or an autobiography. The narrator didn’t seem to be a particularly unreliable narrator other than the fact that it was first person (which is a big fact, I know), but he seemed to be fairly even-keeled and even-handed in his description of events. He is, of course, very passionate about many things (he didn’t much like being incarcerated wrongfully, as you might imagine), but that only serves to fuel the very intimate feeling of this book. I felt like I was living right alongside him. It’s one of the best, most realistic-feeling ventures into prison that I’ve read. It didn’t just deal with the normal day-to-day dealings of prison and the minutiae of prison life, but also addressed the bigger scale of prison life—relationships, environment, surroundings, etc. These were all viewed through the protagonist’s eyes, which made it feel more authentic because it was more than just a description or a report, it was an actual experience. It felt contained and yet broad; the fact that it could do both was refreshing.

This book is divided into parts, and these parts represent different…well…parts of the main person’s life. I liked the structure. It made sense to me. I like very structured books or books that at least stick to a structure. The first couple parts were really interesting and I felt swept up in what was going on. Although the last two parts were also really interesting, I found them to be less believable. It seemed very out of character for the protagonist, and it left me questioning the whole time whether this is something he would really do (and since I felt like I’d been living in his head for quite some time, I felt at least somewhat knowledgeable on that topic). I don’t want to give anything away because I think it’s quite a surprise, not only what happens but how it all twists and turns to the end. I will say, though, that I have my doubts. That’s not to say it wasn’t interesting or wasn’t compelling, because it certainly was, I just found it to be out of character. At some points I thought it was to invoke a philosophical discussion and allow a space where that would make sense in this book.

If you’re into podcasts/reading/watching about the wrongfully accused, and especially those where issues of race come up, I think you would enjoy this. It’s a very personal-feeling account and yet talks about and addresses issues on a grander scale as well.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: This book has language, violence, and some discussion of sex. I didn’t find it to be overly offensive although the aforementioned adult content does exist in this book.

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