First of all, I will admit that I did not read the summary for this book. I started with a Good Reads search for “female detective”. This lead me to a series of books named after CJ Townsend. After I confirmed that CJ was female and there was a murder involved, I immediately loaded it onto my Kindle. Retribution is not about a female detective, but rather about a criminal prosecutor. One who confronts the man responsible for her own unsolved rape; now on trial for a series of brutal murders.
The Good Bits.
When I realized CJ was going to be a lawyer instead of a detective, I was immediately devastated. Putting together clues and speculating is the best thing about mysteries, don’t you think? Most detective novels end with an arrest, but in this legal thriller that’s where the fun begins.
And I liked it! Hoffman gets you involved by using multiple perspectives to give you the best of both worlds. Defense lawyer Lourdes Rubio is a great example of this. She wonders if she is protecting an innocent man, or a helping serial rapist and murderer. CJ suspects that the accused may not be guilty, but remains determined to seek the death penalty for him. It’s too late to charge him for his crimes against her, but she can do everything in her power to nail him for this one. And I mean everything. This isn’t a moral high ground protagonist who would never think of withholding evidence or coaching cops. This is a real and vulnerable woman finally in a position of power over a man who held power over her for years. I knew she was doing the wrong thing, but I wouldn’t want to see a rapist go free either! You get caught up in the struggles the characters are having between right and wrong. That’s what makes this such a gripping novel.
There are few things worse in a book than ‘The Bad Guy’. When I say Bad Guy I don’t mean the antagonist. An antagonist is a complex character. But the Bad Guy is little more than a one-dimensional, pure evil, sociopath. In Retribution this character is William Bantling.
His perspective consists of a slew of degrading and sexist comments. All used to reinforce how terrible he is, as if the ‘serial rapist’ part wasn’t enough for you. His perspective is only appropriate during CJ Townsend’s violent rape and assault. This scene pushes CJ into the background and makes her smaller as a character. You can image a real life victim feeling that way about their own experience. That they felt smaller and less significant as a person. It is as powerful as it is disturbing. This feeling stayed with me as I read on—like a sympathetic feeling of violation. Yet, every other time Bantling had an inner monologue, I found myself flipping ahead.
I also could have done without the romance between CJ and Detective Dominick Falconetti. It’s like listening to that friend (you know the one) who goes on and on about this guy she met. He’s the love of her life and she’s never felt this way. He makes her feel ‘whole’ (was she empty before?) Then your friend breaks up with him to protect herself from getting hurt. And then they get back together because they can’t stand to be apart. Annoyed yet? I was.
The Last Bite.
Retribution is different from other crime thrillers because its focus is the characters. And contrary to my initial thoughts, I enjoyed it immensely. It’s a great novel for anyone wanting to explore the darker side of the crime/legal thriller. And you may find yourself wondering if you could make the same hard decisions.
Have you ever started a novel thinking it would be one thing, then it turned out to be something else?
And if you’ve read Retribution I’d love to hear what you thought! Comments-based book club anyone?
Let’s do lunch again next week!
*please note, if you purchase this book from the links I will receive a portion of the sale; however, this is not a sponsored post and I was not paid to review this novel. The choice of book, and all opinions on it, are my own.