Audiobook Review: The Wrong Man by David Ellis

5 07 2012

The Wrong Man by David Ellis (Jason Kolarich, Bk. 3)

Read by Luke Daniels

Brilliance Audio

Length: 11 Hrs 58 Min

Genre: Legal Thriller

Quick Thoughts: The Wrong Man isn’t David Ellis’ best work, with too many incongruent subplots muddling the story. Yet, legal thriller fans should have fun with some complex issues and the legal gymnastics of this tale, as well as getting a better grip on just who this Jason Kolarich fellow is.

Grade: B-

As someone who reads a lot of legal thrillers I often define an author by his main series character. These authors have created this character, with friends and love interests, moral codes and legal styles and builds cases around them. You have sometimes naive do-gooders like William Berhardt’s Ben Kincaid or James Grippando’s Jack Swyteck. You have ethically flexible practitioners like William Lashner’s Victor Carl or Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller. Andy Carpenter loves dogs, Dismas Hardy loves his frying pan and Nina Reilly love Lake Tahoe. I have read a ton of these series and each time I pick up a book, I have a pretty vivid picture of the series star in my head, and know the author will create interesting cases that fit these characters right. Yet, this isn’t the experience I have had with Jason Kolarich, the protagonist of three Legal Thrillers by David Ellis.  I have been a big fan of Ellis since his first novel, Line of Vision and I think he is one of the more compelling legal thriller authors out there. Only recently has he begun to write novels with a continuing protagonist, and while the books have been good, I haven’t yet really gelled to the series star. I think this is because in part, the cases have seemed to outshine the character. Kolarich has been through a lot in these three books, yet, right before starting The Wrong Man, I realized I remembered almost nothing about him. I remember the cases well, yet the man has never really stuck in my head. Not ever have I heard of a case, and thought, "that would be a case for Jason Kolarich" like I have with other legal thriller characters. I think this is because Ellis has created a malleable character that he pushes into shape for the case, instead of allowing the character to define the book.

In The Wrong Man, a young paralegal is found shot dead in a alley, and Mike Stoller, a homeless Iraqi war vet is discovered with her purse and the murder weapon. Arrested and interrogated, Stoller seemingly confesses to killing her in a PSTD flashback, but is deemed fit to stand trial and given a Public Defender. Yet, after witnessing Kolarich in a trial, Stoller’s aunt gets the lawyer to agree to look into her nephew’s case. This is seemingly just the case for Jason Kolarich. The Wrong Man was a decent legal thriller with some interesting courtroom strategy that gets a bit bogged down in cliché and distractions.  Ellis tries to combine a typical courtroom thriller with a vast domestic terrorism conspiracy subplot that while doesn’t totally fit together well, at least makes things interesting. Yet, added on top of that is a mafia hitman angle that just totally goes off the rails, with a telegraphed twist I could see coming for miles even without my glasses on. The end result was quite muddled, but there was enough that did work to allow me to have some fun with it. Ellis does spend more time here developing Kolarich as a character, putting enough ethical and legal conflicts into place and forcing him to make tough decisions that you start to get a true sense of the man. Ellis also writes some very crisp trial scenes where our hero’s brilliant machinations aren’t as brilliant as he things. I like the fact that as a lawyer, Kolarich wasn’t infallible, although he did fall into traps even this lay reader could see coming. The Wrong Man isn’t David Ellis’ best work, with too many incongruent subplots muddling the story. Yet, legal thriller fans should have fun with some complex issues and the legal gymnastics of this tale, as well as getting a better grip on just who this Jason Kolarich fellow is.

Luke Daniels continues his work on this series and does a fine job. While this audiobook, like most legal thrillers, doesn’t present too many challenges to this seasoned narrator, he does a good job with some of the more colorful characters showing up in the tale. He handles the pacing of the legal proceedings well, capturing a courtroom rhythm that comes off crisp and precise while maintaining a realistic organic feel. The strange part is, that my least favorite part of the book, which was the mafia angle, was where Daniel’s does his best work. This section was filled with the more oddball characters, and actually provided the rare moments of humor in this tale, and when Daniels has something to really work with, he totally shines. The Wrong Man definitely has its moments and the skills of the narrator helps smooth over some of the rougher patches making it a decent and entertaining listen. 

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One response

6 07 2012
DevourerofBooks (@DevourerofBooks)

That’s interesting that Ellis’s character isn’t very strong. Why even bother making it a series instead of just standalones, then?

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