Plea of Insanity by Jilliane Hoffman

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Plea of Insanity by Jilliane Hoffman

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: An informative story about what happened when a defendant enters a plea of 'Not Guilty By Reason Of Insanity' when charged with four brutal murders. Recommended.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 608 Date: July 2007
Publisher: Michael Joseph Ltd
ISBN: 978-0718148591

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One night a young child makes a call to the emergency services, begging for help. When the police arrive at the house they find a mother and her three young children brutally murdered and the father with a knife stuck in him. We don't waste our sympathy on him for long though - Dr David Marquette, successful Miami surgeon and apparently devoted family man is soon charged with their murder.

Julia Valenciano is a young and ambitious prosecutor, but even she never expected to be asked to take the second seat in such a high-profile case. Both she and the lead prosecutor, Rick Bellido, would like to keep the fact that they're sleeping together to themselves, particularly as Rick has hopes of higher office. Tensions spring up between the two when the defendant pleads not guilty by reason of insanity. Julia hasn't been completely open with Rick about what happened to her own family but to get through this case she is going to have to confront what happened to them fifteen years ago.

I did wonder if I was going to like this book. In fact, at one stage I wondered if it would defeat me. Jilliane Hoffman was a prosecutor for four years and she obviously knows the business inside out and just occasionally I got lost in the jargon with the text being liberally sprinkled with 'ASA' (Assistant State Attorney), PD (Public Defender) and DC (Division Chief), with the PDs being divided into A, B and C grouping depending on the type of case they work. Add to this 'MD' (which can be Metro-Dade or Miami-Dade) and the police officers from MDPD and you'll see why it's easy to get confused. It is worth mastering this early on as you will be asking questions if you don't.

Once I got past the jargon I found an interesting and informing story. Marquette claims to be suffering from schizophrenia and the illness is a thread which runs right through the book, looking at when the illness strikes and the implications for the sufferer and their families. If you'd asked me before I started the book I would have said that reading about this in fiction would be a case of taking my pleasures a little too sadly, but it's a story told by someone who has mastered the subject and it makes for fascinating and interesting reading. It's enlightening and occasionally frightening particularly for anyone with a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia.

I warmed to Julia. I rooted for her. She's a character with a disturbing past and some horrible probabilities in her future, but she does her best to act with honour when it seems that the State Prosecutors are looking for a result rather than a resolution. It would have been easy for the characters to descend into caricature with the battling young female PD pitted against the baddies, but Hoffman deftly avoids this.

There are some neat twists in the plot, with the interlinking of Julia's own story with the prosecution of David Marquette and the repercussions in her private life. In cases where a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity is made the Prosecutor treads a fine line as it's possible that someone who has murdered could well be released after a period of time when it is thought that he or she is no longer a threat to the community. If the plea is made by a malingerer then it's possible that they could be free to murder again. Into which group does David Marquette fall? Is he being cruelly prosecuted because of actions which he could not control, or is he a brutal murderer well aware of what he is doing? You'll wait until the very end before you can even guess at the answer.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this book to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy The Darkness Inside by John Rickards or for another book which takes the fiction route to mental illness you might appreciate Patrick Gale's Notes From An Exhibition which looks at bi-polar disorder.

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