An unnamed defendant stands accused of murder. Just before the Closing Speeches, the young man sacks his lawyer, and decides to give his own defence speech.
He tells us that his barrister told him to leave some things out. Sometimes, the truth can be too difficult to explain, or believe. But he thinks that if he’s going to go down for life, he might as well go down telling the truth.
There are eight pieces of evidence against him. As he talks us through them one by one, his life is in our hands. We, the reader – member of the jury – must keep an open mind till we hear the end of his story. His defence raises many questions… but at the end of the speeches, only one matters:
Did he do it?
The premise of this book really drew me in! The idea that someone would fire their lawyer before closing arguments in their murder trial and decide to give their own interested me. There are so many aspects of the criminal justice system that I have issues with that I thought a book about a defendant speaking out for themselves was something right up my alley.
We are immediately introduced to the defendant who remains unnamed the entire book. I thought I’d have a problem with this because I worried I might not connect or be able to picture him in my head without a name but that really wasn’t the case at all. His voice and personality immediately struck me as realistic and pulled me into his story. He has decided he wants to tell the whole truth and nothing but…this is against the advice of his lawyer who seems to believe the truth will hurt his case. The defendant lays out the 8 key pieces of evidence against him and proceeds to go over each one explaining, in great detail and backstory for many, the “truth” behind the supposed evidence. The reader gets to be a part of the jury…are his versions of the “truth” to be believed?
As he begins detailing the pieces of evidence we begin to get a feel for his life and what led to his currently being charged with murder. What we hear includes racism, poverty, drugs, girlfriends, and quite a bit of dealings with gangs and the gang subculture. The defendant speaks using colloquial language and lots of urban street slang which on the one hand made him feel like an authentic character but on the other hand it started to make me wish I could hear from someone else. Which doesn’t happen. The entire book is told in the first person and we only hear from the defendant. While initially I enjoyed this narrative structure, by about 35% into the story I felt myself becoming slightly annoyed with the constant, repetitive use of certain words like “innit” and the very detailed backstories started to bore me quite honestly. As the story went on, I found my mind wandering and I started skimming which is never a good sign.
Overall, this story started off so strong for me but lost steam by the halfway point and I never regained my interest. And the ending….not at all what I expected…don’t get me started on that! What I’ll say is that the author took a great risk with this narrative structure and story which I appreciate and while it didn’t work for me, I’m very much in the minority because there are many highly rated reviews on Goodreads. If you’re looking for a uniquely told story you might want to give this a try.
Many thanks to Michael Joseph Books via Netgalley for my copy, I’m happy to provide an honest review.