As I looked at the tag line of Guilty by Gabriel Boutros proclaiming as to ‘What happens when a lawyer crosses the line’, I got quite curious to know what kind of boundaries our lawyer hero is going to cross here.
I have never read a Court Drama before and was super excited to dig in.
In fact, I have always been intrigued by the black coat wearers. May be it is an after effect of movies and serials that I consider lawyers to be some sort of bad agents of Law, who are either ready to sacrifice justice at the altar of money or are weak willed enough to surrender to the whims and fancies of their clients.
However, as I began reading The Guilty by Gabriel Boutros, I felt that my mental image was a mere grain in the vast silo of truth. The lawyers may twist truth to suit their clients’ interests, may put on a dramatic show to impress the Jury, may tilt the balance of justice and may even create booby traps of not so true evidences but at the end of the day, they are also humans.
They also have a conscience that withers with guilt and are desperate to make amends, especially when their own dear ones are at the receiving end.
Well, if you are wondering why am I stressing the conscience part so much, blame it on my current read as the story of Guilty actually revolves around a hot shot lawyer, who has recently been at the wrong end of justice.
Robert Bratt is a famous lawyer in Montreal. He is about to achieve his life long dream of becoming a judge. He is a smart handsome man, smug in court and a confident charmer outside. But, of late, he has been riddled with remorse.
Apparently, his daughter’s best friend Claire has been raped by one of his ex-client, who was acquitted of a similar crime 04 years ago by the legal expertise of Bratt himself.
Now, the incorrigible man has repeated his shameful sin and is being defended by Bratt’s own protege Perron, who strategically rips apart Claire’s modesty in the Court.
Though, Bratt is not directly involved in the Rape Trial neither as a Defense Lawyer nor as the Crown Prosecutor, still it is evident to everyone that Perron is using his tactics to win the case. Bratt’s daughter Jeannie takes it to her heart and berates her father for being a defender of criminals.
As the story begins, we are introduced to Robert Bratt in an agitated state as his daughter has placed the blame for her friend’s pains squarely on his shoulders, belying all his excuses of being a puppet in the mighty hands of Law.
And, to make matters even worse, Bratt himself is unable to silence his protesting soul and is on the verge of a guilt trip.
At this point of time, I found the story touching, but it did not even remotely looked like a Courtroom Drama, I had expected from an ex-lawyer writer. It appeared more as an emotional rant by a man in distress. Add to that, the unsavory questions Claire was made to suffer in the Court made it harder for me to pursue the story any further.
But, thank God, I persisted in my endeavor as the novel did turn out to be quite good in the middle. Slowly, the narrative became emotionally charged and mysteriously intriguing. There seemed to be much more happening under the surface than was evident in the simple narration.
Despite his hammering conscience, Bratt takes on a double murder case to defend Marlon Small, a Jamaican man he disliked from the very first meeting. As Bratt vacillates between his soul’s genial nature and his hard core image of a formidable defense lawyer, Gabriel Boutros creates an interesting story.
The book does have shades of grief and remorse, but only when Bratt is alone. In the Court Room and among his colleagues, he is charm personified. The Jury seems smitten with his confident moves, his associates look unto him as an ideal and his love life seems to be heading in the right direction.
The court proceedings in Marlon case were a treat. Guilty is my first Court Room Drama, and despite its slow beginning, I began loving it as arguments rained in.
How truth can be twisted in such a convoluted way that the honest man begins doubting his own story, how a simple incident can be changed into a complex planned hoax, how the guilty can be proven to be innocent and vice versa, became crystal clear as Bratt, Kouri and Parent argued their cases, grilled each others’ witnesses, played on the emotions of Jury and tried to make the outcome best for their respective clients. Every trick of the old bag is used and I realized that there is only a very fine line between truth and lie, and at times, if you repeat a lie a hundred times, the mind accepts it as the only truth!
As the author slowly divulged the shallow selection procedure of Jury members, the hardened emotions of an impatient Judge and the juicy, witty comments and playful antics of Bratt, the slow starter became a page turner and I began enjoying the story, that got better with Small and his holier than thou mother cpming into picture.
Gabriel Boutros also made a good use of Montreal winter. Somehow, the icy cold winds conveyed the dilemma suffered by Bratt even more convincingly. And the liberal sprinkling of French names, places and phrases lend the novel a very exotic flavor. The writing style is simple yet effective. There was nothing extraordinary in the language to digress me from the story and in a way, it made the novel even more fast paced.
But, the underlying current of this book is guilt, and Gabriel is not ready to give a minute of reprieve to Bratt from his troubling conscience. Though, this overstress on remorse and soul-saving actually made the climax a bit too melodramatic for my taste. If only the novel had a little less lecturing on repentance and confession, I would have enjoyed it even more.
Yet, the Guilty is a worthy read. The cold bloodedness of hard hearted criminals, extra sensitive emotions of the Hero himself and the ignore-what-you-can’t-control attitude of Kouri was quite wonderfully portrayed by Gabriel Boutros.
All in all, a good debut by the writer. I would remember Guilty as a unique nicely executed story that could have been much better, if only the beginning was a little less slow and the climax a little less dramatic!