In Pulaski, Tennessee, high school football star, Odell Champagne, has almost everything he wants – the adoration of an entire community, a series of “W’s” in the score column for his high school football team, thanks to his running, and most of all, Brittany Crutcher, the talented voice behind Pulaski’s most popular local band, as his girlfriend.
But Brittany has been spotted by a talent scout who convinces her that she can live the life of a pop star if she moves out of Pulaski and heads to the city … without her band and without Odell. She lets her bandmates know and she breaks up with Odell on the eve of his greatest high school football game. He doesn’t take it well – especially after learning that she’s been sleeping with her newly-acquired manager.
But when Brittany is found dead and Odell is just yards away, clutching her sweater and the murder weapon, the town turns against its rising athletic star to mourn the loss of its talented vocal star.
Odell swears he didn’t kill Brittany – that he couldn’t – and he begs Bocephus Haynes to represent him. Bo has retired and doesn’t want to be dragged into another court case. The evidence against Odell is overwhelming and the town has practically convicted him already. To represent him is to choose the wrong side. But Bo believes Odell and takes him on. Was this a foolish way to come out of retirement?
If you’ve been following my reviews for the past couple of years or more, then you might remember that I’ve become a big fan of Robert Bailey’s legal thrillers. This is just a little surprising given that these books have a decidedly southern-ness about them while I, from the north, have absolutely no connection to the south. There is a strong tie to football in most books, and while I’ve been known to watch some NFL games on Sunday, it is not nearly as ingrained in me as it is for the characters in these books. And finally, until I’d read Bailey, I had no interest in reading legal thrillers.
This is a testament, I think, to Bailey’s writing. He creates characters that are universal based on their human traits, not because of where they live or because of sports (though I think the connection might be even stronger for readers from the South).
All that said, this is possibly my least favorite Robert Bailey book (though still earning three and a half stars). My problem here is that the story moved too quickly. We go from set-up (introduction of characters) to murder to arrest to courtroom with just the barest of time for Bo Haynes to consider whether or not he wants to represent Odell. There’s an attempt to provide a little red herring, but its conclusion is swift and comes about not through action in the story, but by a quick, two-page info dump by another character. Not that it mattered … the resolution was pretty clear from the start.
I would have preferred a more mystery novel approach rather than tv-episode approach, which is how this felt. Bailey’s strength is in his characters and we needed more time with them, to see them work, rather than being handed the important points in a couple of quick visits.
Perhaps not my favorite, but I’d still pick up a new Robert Bailey legal thriller any day.
Looking for a good book? Robert Bailey’s Bocephus Haynes novel, The Wrong Side, moves a little too quickly so the reader doesn’t really get a chance to enjoy the mystery but the characters are still a strength to the storytelling.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Wrong Side
author: Robert Bailey
series: Bocephus Haynes #2
publisher: Thomas & Mercer
paperback, 368 pages