For anyone who, like me, gobbles up true crime dramas on TV, was hooked on Netflix series Making a Murderer and has been looking for something truly gripping to read during lockdown, let me present Contempt by Michael Cordell.
Published by TCK Publishing, this book is touted as a ‘legal thriller’, but is so much more than that.
From the first chapter, set in a courtroom as convicted murderer Thane Banning acts as his own lawyer to get himself out on parole, I was completely hooked.
Banning, a real-estate lawyer who spent five years in jail for a murder he didn’t commit, doesn’t take his release as a way to start fresh, he is intent on proving his innocence and getting revenge on those who played a part in his false conviction – most notably his former prosecution and now District Attorney, Bradford Stone.
Stone and Banning’s rivalry is the main thread of this tale, but Cordell raises much more important questions through the course of his novel, including whether things can ever go back to normal following a life-shattering event such as what Banning has gone through.
We also come to love Thane’s wife, Hannah, who suffered her own personal turmoil while her husband sat on death row, not knowing whether to stay with him or start a new life, an internal struggle which comes to the fore when her husband is released. Is he the same man she married? Should she wait around to find out?
I found myself moving from chapter to chapter, never coming to a moment I felt comfortable putting the book down, always wanting to know what would happen next.
Redemption for Banning comes in the form of a fellow former in-mate, who is arrested for a murder he didn’t commit, much like Thane himself once was. The opportunity to defend this case and help to prevent another innocent man landing on death row is too much for Thane to resist, and the ensuing court case forms the central drama of the book.
Much like the case, which Banning encourages the jury to not see as being as clear-cut as the prosecution, Banning’s rival DA Stone, would have them think, this book isn’t as simple as it may appear, with the last few chapters being just as gripping as the first.
I couldn’t put it down, and would highly recommend it as a quick but thrilling read.
Find out more about Michael Cordell on his website.