Audiobook Review: Trial Junkies by Robert Gregory Browne

29 04 2013

Trial Junkies by Robert Gregory Browne

Read by Eric G. Dove

Braun Haus Media

Length: 8 Hrs 30 Min

Genre: Legal Thriller/Murder Mystery

Quick Thoughts: Trial Junkies is a unique legal thriller that gives you a different perspective on a court room procedural while offering a solid murder mystery as well. While these aspects made Trial Junkies a strong read for mystery fans, the special relationship among Browne’s group of reunited college friends really resonated with me, adding even more substance to an already strong tale.

Grade: B+

If I look over the far too many years of my life and try to pick what was my favorite time, it had to be the years in college and the few after in which I met the small group of friends who probably have had the most impact on my life. We spent many nights smoking cloves, drinking beer, hanging in coffee shops and having deep philosophical conversations that older me would probably find quite pretentious if I overheard it today. For about a year of so after college, we got together and rented a house. I can’t say it was the happiest of times. We squabbled, and had our own little soap operas. We worked crappy jobs, drank too much, had great parties that often led to stupid decisions. Yet, my favorite times were those days we just hung out, passed around a bottle, watched stupid TV shows or played video games, and embraced those last irresponsible days of our lives. Then, life took over, we all began to go our separate ways with promises to keep in touch, which we did for a while. Then, suddenly, it’s 12 years later. Last summer, I was driving home from a long road trip visiting my brother in Huntsville, Alabama. I was getting closer to Philly, less than an hour out, passing through Newark Delaware, when a sense of melancholy overcame me. One of the couples within my small group, now married, lived in Newark. We’d recently, sort of reconnected through Facebook, in that "Like", brief comments on your status sort of way, but I decided then, I would try to physically reconnect with them this year. It took me until the holidays, but finally, a bunch of us got together for Christmas, and shockingly, quickly fell into a comfortable conversation like the years haven’t passed. It was its own sort of subtle joy to experience this, like a sense of returning home, a place where you feel comfortable and accepted. Like you belong.

When down on his luck, just out of rehab bad boy actor, Ethan "Hutch" Hutchinson discovers that his ex-girlfriend and probably one true love of his life, was brutally murdered he returns to Chicago to attend her funeral. When one of his former college friends is arrested for the murder, he is conflicted. Finally deciding to believe in her, Hutch vows to find the real killer who just may be one of the court regulars who show up every day to watch the murder trial. When I first chose to give Trial Junkies a listen, I was hoping for a fast paced legal thriller/murder mystery to balance out all the high concept fantasy and science fiction I had been listening to recently. What I wasn’t expecting was just how much I would connect with the characters. It wasn’t because the novel was especially well written. Sure, Browne knows how to tell a story and has developed a strong one here with enjoyable characters, lots of good twists, and a unique take on classic legal thrillers yet, mostly, I connected with the characters because their story resonated with many things going on in my life recently. Now, I haven’t had any ex-girlfriends brutally murdered that I know about, and I’m not some bad boy actor, but I loved the angle of the old college friends reconnecting, even if the events that brought them together were tragic. There were a lot of things I liked about Trial Junkies, and a few little things that bothered me. I liked that this was a different take on the legal thriller. Instead of being thrown into the process through the eyes of a lawyer or defendant, we are given a spectators perspective of the procedures. I think this would work well for those who enjoy legal thrillers but don’t especially enjoy all the legal maneuvering. As a character, Hutch was basically an idiot. He made one blunder after the next, making stupid decisions, often knowing that he was making stupid decisions. I loved his ruminations on why he couldn’t hire a private eye, because they were incredibly boneheaded. Now, you may think I’m being overly critical, but, honestly, I loved that Hutch was an idiot. I love that he made stupid decisions then self rationalized them. I often get annoyed when someone shows up, a layman like an actor, then suddenly becomes Mr. Super Investigator, who can figure things out that the professionals can’t. There were a few moments in the book that I though were created simply to add some tension and color to the tale, and really didn’t serve the story, particularly a unnecessary subplot dealing with the victim’s father, but these were at most, minor distractions and a worst, poorly executed red herrings. There was also a clumsy  strange almost sex scene that was eye rollingly bad, especially since the hottest moments took place in recollections later in the book, but then, I find most sex scenes in books worthy of a good eye roll. The ending itself was a doozy, with a progression of twists that work like a nudge, then slap then a solid punch in the gut. You may guess one or even two along the way, but I have trouble believing even the most nuanced mystery reader will have it all figured out before the end.  Trial Junkies is a unique legal thriller that gives you a different perspective on a court room procedural while offering a solid murder mystery as well. While these aspects made Trial Junkies a strong read for mystery fans, the special relationship among Browne’s group of reunited college friends really resonated with me, adding even more substance to an already strong tale.

Eric G. Dove handled the narration of Trial Junkies. I have listened to quite a few audiobooks that were self produced, either through ACX or some other program, and I always try to add this into my consideration. Trial Junkies is an excellent production. The sound is crisp and the narration clear and the listener will have trouble telling any difference between this production and one from one of the major studios. Eric Dove is a narrator I have enjoyed in the past. In Trial Junkies his work won’t blow you away. He gives a solid, workman-like performance that serves the story well. He has a strong grasp on the characters, offering distinct characterizations for each. The courtroom scenes in Trial Junkies are filtered through the perceptions of Hutch, or one of the other characters, and while this could feel like long bits of exposition, Dove gives it a conversational feel. He gives just the right amount of tension to the closing moments of the novel with crisp pacing. Overall, I enjoyed Trial Junkies a lot and have no trouble recommending it to fans of good solid mystery tales and courtroom thrillers.

Note: Special Thanks to the author for providing me a copy of this title for review upon my request.

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