Readers can expect a thriller that charts over two criminal cases with big money and lives on the line as Conspiracy of Lies grapples with questions that Rachlin examines with compelling detail and persuasive authority. How can justice be best served? Who is innocent and how can they be protected? To those legal dilemmas, Rachlin adds an evergreen: How far will Dalton go to protect his family—and will his wife Elenea countenance his choice to defend drug runners? Driven through the eyes of Dalton, a character without extensive expertise in criminal law, the story offers readers the chance to see potential pitfalls that the protagonist himself does not.
The novel particularly shines in courtroom passages offering full accounts of the lawyers, judges, and juries and their complex procedural drama. Also engaging, but pained, is the romantic drama between Dalton and Elena, who is traumatized by childhood experiences with cartel violence in Colombia, and tells Dalton “Protecting the dregs of Miami isn’t why I helped you through Yale.” His constant choices to choose his career over his commitment to her give the book a raw tension.
Takeaway: Thriller about a lawyer defending drug traffickers—over his family’s wishes.
Comparable Titles: Peter O’Mahoney’s The Southern Lawyer, Robert Whitlow’s Relative Justice.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-
A Riveting Court Room Thriller
When someone feels like his or her (or their) back is against the wall, that person will do anything to get out of it. Sometimes desperation becomes fuel for something extraordinary, and other times, it leads to serious, sometimes fatal mistakes. Jake Dalton has his back against the wall and in a moment of weakness, takes on a case that puts him on the wrong end of the law in Richard S. Rachlin’s Conspiracy of Lies.
While the story officially begins with the murdered body of a young adult, the story focuses on Jake Dalton, a civil trial lawyer at the tail end of his rope. His marriage to the woman he adores is on the rocks, his son suffers from Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura, and the Personal Injury lawsuit that he was sure to win doesn’t go in his favor after his client, in fear of her safety and looking for a way out, takes a settlement.
When all hope seems lost, Samuel “Sam” Pendleton, a poker buddy and husband of his wife’s friend, offers him a job regarding his business partner’s Cessna being held by customs. However, things rapidly change when one of the pilots of the Cessna, Thomas “Tommy” Tifton is arrested in the middle of the night by U.S Marshals on trafficking charges.
Despite his better judgment and with his back against the wall, Jake accepts the risk and decides to represent Tifton and give him his day in court, not knowing that sometime soon, his fate will hang in the balance.
To preface, I am a very casual fan of court procedural stories. Capcom’s The Ace Attorney Series, Law and Order, Suits, and Better Call Saul among a few others, gave me a taste of what to expect in these types of settings.
When this book was brought to my attention, I was somewhat optimistic going into it that I would have some sort of enjoyment in it, while expecting to be confused by all of the legal jargon that would inevitably come. However, I found myself not only pleasantly surprised, my expectations were blown out of the water by the myriad of twists and turns of the trial, how seamless the story is, and how intriguing every character seemed to be.
The protagonist, Jake Dalton, is one of the most interesting characters I’ve had the pleasure of reading. He clearly has flaws, such as his gambling, his severe abandonment issues, his risk-taking habits, and financial insecurity, all of which stemming from a poor childhood that culminated with his mother abandoning his father and himself for a rich man to chase the life she always wanted.
But at the same time, it was this singular incident that makes Jake more-or-less an honest man who sincerely loves his wife and children and wants to do his best to provide for them and keep them safe. It was fascinating to watch both his positive and negative attributes battle as if they were the angel and the devil on his shoulder.
For example, Jake knows that his wife, Elena, was severely traumatized while growing up in Colombia during the reign of Pablo Escobar and originally tried to fight taking on this case, as there was a chance that his client could be a drug runner. However, because his wife came from a wealthy family, his financial insecurity flares up at the threat of losing the ability to provide for Elena and his family, which could potentially cost him both, which causes him to lie to her until everything is just about to come to a head.
But it also goes the other way because, despite his mortal fear of not being able to support his family and risking the chance of losing them, Jake proves that he is an honest man by turning down a bribe to continue the case when certain things come to light and also refuses to perjure himself in court.
Another interesting character is Tommy Tifton, who could rightfully be called a secondary protagonist as his life is hanging by a thread as thirty years in prison looms above his head. Tommy is a decorated war hero and a haunted man who was accused of being a drug runner by the United States Government. He’s prone to anger, bouts of PTSD, and strong mistrust of the government for screwing him over after his injuries in Desert Storm. But at the same time, he also shows that he’s an honorable man who always strives to do the right thing, even to his own detriment which could cost him the ability to be with his wife and his future son, among other things.
As Omar Little of The Wire once said, “A man’s gotta have a code,” and despite the actions that Tommy takes during this tale, he is willing to live and die by that code and it’s sincerely fascinating to see someone living up to their ideals. While I’ve only touched on two characters, the author does a magnificent job of making every single character interesting and also leaving a lot of mystery behind them. The author also does a good job of making the characters feel real and the actions they take make sense and are in character for them.
The court scenes are fantastic and I’ve found myself on the edge of my seat several times, with certain twists leaving me stunned and certain scenes leaving me tense until the very end of the book. The writing is top notch and the story escalates at a natural pace and keeps that growing momentum until the very last page.
This book felt like I was watching a movie play out and the final twist that connected everything left me completely blown away.
Conspiracy and Lies is a fast-paced read and whether you are a casual or lover of court procedurals and thrillers, readers will find themselves gripped by this story until the finale. While the story ends satisfactorily, it’s also left in a space where a sequel can happen.
Your Honors, my closing argument is this. Without question or one of Jake’s objections, Conspiracy and Lies earns a glowing recommendation from me.