by Hubert Crouch
Every once in a while you stumble on an indie author who is absolutely first rate. Hubert Crouch, with only two books under his belt, is bound for bestseller status. A full-time lawyer from Texas, Crouch has created a fictional lawyer, Jace Foreman, who is likeable, flawed, talented and worthy of many sequels. I started “The Word” not knowing it was second in a series where I had missed book one, “Cried for No One.” Once I realized this was book 2, my normally ducks-in-a-row personality would have stopped me from continuing, but I am so glad I read on. This book can stand-alone, and although there are references to the previous book, and I know enough I can guess the plot, I will be getting book 1.
There are several sub-plots involving additional interesting characters, but the main story in “The Word” involves a military death, a Westboro Baptist type church who protests the funeral, the repercussions of that and the First Amendment. Crouch clearly knows the law and has the writing talent to present the legal arguments in a way the average reader can understand. The opposing lawyers in the case, Foreman and Cal Connors, are opposite sides of a coin. Foreman represents the Atticus Finch lawyer we all wish we knew, interested in justice and right choices. Connors, his nemesis, is a bad guy with questionable morals, yet very gifted in legal arguments. With such clear cut, good-guy/bad-guy representatives, one would expect a very cliched trial with everything the bad guy says being wrong. This isn’t the case. Crouch is talented enough to present the nuances of how and why we have, and need, the First Amendment. I would be a terrible jurist because I could not have chosen a side given the arguments presented.
Although “The Word” might sound like a too-heavy topic to be covered in an entertaining way, Crouch manages to write a compelling story and keep things moving at a pace which draws in the reader. The supporting characters, with their own stories and personalities, fleshed out the book making it a very fast read.
I have only two minor criticisms, which take away nothing from my enjoyment of this book. The first is the sub-plot for the character of Darrin, legal eagle sidekick and love interest of Foreman. She has a sister in a troubled marriage and a couple of chapters are the two women talking about this situation. I found the time away from the main story to make little sense and to be a distraction. That said, I do wonder if this is included because in later novels it will become important.
The other criticism is pure selfishness on my part – it ended too soon. I was disappointed to come to the end of the story. Surely a sign Crouch knows how to reel in readers because according to his website, http://www.hubertcrouch.com/, book 3 is in progress!!! I look forward to continuing this journey.