The Good Lawyer

Written by lawyer Thomas Benigno and inspired by a true story, The Good Lawyer is a fantastic legal thriller that’s hard to put down. It centers on a young defense lawyer who holds a perfect trial record and prides himself on staying above the law despite his family’s ties to the mob. He is a mama’s boy at heart and determined to maintain a stellar reputation.

Suddenly he finds himself the trial lawyer for two separate, high profile cases – one of an accused child molester and one of an accused serial rapist, dubbed ‘The Spiderman’ for his propensity to propel off of rooftops. Oddly, the cases have a connection to each other and even more surprisingly, to his own family’s past. At the heart of the book, this lawyer struggles towards justice while keeping his inner scales in balance, fighting the urge to go against his principles for the sake of convenience.

The book is not short on twists and turns as it explores a handful of plots (involving rape, murder and suicide) that all come neatly together in the end. If you are a fan of legal thrillers and enjoy reading about a good courtroom trial, The Good Lawyer will not disappoint.

 

The Buffalo Creek Disaster: The Story of the Survivors’ Unprecedented Lawsuit

In 1972 West Virginia, residents of Logan County, specifically Buffalo Creek Hollow, were nearly completely wiped out when a dam at the local coal company burst. In the book The Buffalo Creek Disaster: The Story of the Survivors’ Unprecedented Lawsuit, author Gerald M. Stern gives the reader insight on the horrible ordeal, the aftermath and Pittston Coal Company’s involvement in the situation. As an actual lawyer involved with the lawsuit, he is able to give a first-hand account of dealing with the survivors, the coal company and the government.

Kim O’Brien does not own the rights to this image; it is from Amazon.com.

It is estimated that 132 million gallons of waste water flooded Buffalo Creek Hollow, with waves reaching as high as 30 feet. Over 1,100 people were injured and 125 were killed. About 550 homes were destroyed leaving over 4,000 people homeless. Many lost their job as 30 businesses were also destroyed. Damaged reached into numerous neighboring towns, destroying homes there as well. Pittson Coal Company’s opinion was that the dam bursting was “an act of God” but still offered insurance settlements to victims of the flood.

The survivors of the disaster found their offer to be too little too late and proceeded with a lawsuit against Pittson Coal Company. Lawyers at Washington D.C. firm Arnold & Porter filed a lawsuit on behalf of over 625 people, asking for $64 million in damages.  The parties in the lawsuit agreed to a settlement of $13.5 million which gave each plaintiff a $13,000 award. Another lawsuit was filed by 350 child survivors in 1974. Though that lawsuit asked for $225 million, a settlement of $4.8 million was agreed upon in the end.

Stern created a page turner with the story of this lawsuit. In a time when a small town seemingly had no power against a huge coal company, the little guy prevailed. But not without a lot of blood, sweat and tears, all captured perfectly in this true-story novel.

 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Kimberley O’Brien Chicago Book Slave does NOT own the rights to this image.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know that Kim O’Brien is a SLAVE to the works of Neil Gaiman.  I’ve been a fan since his “Sandman” days and I couldn’t wait to pick up his latest now that it’s available in affordable paperback.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is shorter than a typical Gaiman book; it’s only around 170-ish pages and it tells the strange story of a man who returns to his childhood home for a friend’s funeral. While he is home, driving around and reminiscing about his youth, he is flooded with memories of an unusual year when he made friends with a strange, witchy girl down the street.  What ensues is pure Neil Gaiman.  There’s an abusive live-in nanny; creepy supernatural creatures; and dry humor combined with high drama.  Gaiman taps into those long-forgotten childhood fears like almost nobody else — if you’ve read “Coraline” you know how good he is at doing that.

If you’re looking for something short and fantasy-ish, try this one out.  Kimberly O’Brien, Chicago Book Lover thinks you won’t be disappointed.

Kimberly O’Brien reviews Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman

Kimberly O’Brien/Chicago Slave Bride thinks this is an interesting look at the secretive world of Scientology.

If you like nonfiction/true crime, you’ll probably enjoy Janet Reitman’s in-depth exploration of Scientology.

In Kimberly O’Brien’s case, I didn’t know much about Scientology other than what I’ve gleaned from news stories about now-divorced couple Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley and other big-name celebrities.  I’d heard that the Church of Scientology was so protective of its image that it would file lawsuits to keep people from talking about it.

After reading this book, I felt way more informed about Scientology — and, to be honest, a lot more astonished  and saddened by some of the abuses of power and authority that are described in this book.  Strangely, this book doesn’t feel like a “hit piece,” it feels like a very well-researched piece of investigative journalism.  I felt sorry for some of the ex-spouses/partners who have lost huge amounts of money and even family members to this organization.  I also felt angry when I read about kids whose parents essentially deprived them of proper educations (there’s a whole chapter in this book about the Scientology education system and it sounds like abuse to me).

Of course Kimberly O’Brien has never met a real Scientologist — but after reading this book, I’d sure be interested to sit down and talk to one.

Kimberley O’Brien Chicago Literature Lover: Night Film by Marisha Pessl

This is a rare find:  a “literary” mystery that delivers a great combination of good writing, interesting images, and page-turning suspense.

Scott McGrath is a “disgraced” investigative journalist whose prestigious career came to a halt in the late 1990s after he publicly defamed famous and secretive horror film director, Stanislas Cordova.  Cordova, who gained a cult following for producing some of the scariest films ever made, slapped McGrath with a lawsuit for libel — and after that, McGrath’s world fell apart: He couldn’t get work and his wife divorced him.  He’s been hanging around New York, bitter and angry, ever since; a slave to his emotions.  And, despite the lawsuit that said otherwise, he still feels that there is something deeply wrong with Cordova and the rest of his family.  Meanwhile, his agent can’t find him serious work, and his ex-wife heaps abuse on him.

But all that changes on the day he hears the news that Cordova’s daughter Ashley was found dead in a seedy NYC warehouse, an apparent suicide victim.  Cordova feels that the circumstances of Ashley’s death are suspicious, and he kicks off his own investigation into Ashley’s death.  Along the way he joins forces with Nora, a quirky aspiring actress fresh from rural Florida and a surprisingly smart slacker/drug dealer named Hopper.

Do McGrath, Nora, and Hopper uncover the twisted, abusive secrets of the mysterious Cordovas?  Or is he simply abusing the privacy of a close family that simply wants to be left alone?

Kimberly O’Brien won’t say.  Read Night Film yourself to find out more!

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