Here is my book synopsis and legal review of Abiding Conviction by Stephen M. Murphy, the third Dutch Francis legal thriller. This time, someone has kidnapped his wife right in the middle of the murder trial of Maureen Garcia. She was the wife of the Honorable Carlos Garcia, Dutch’s client.
I give Stephen M. Murphy’s Abiding Conviction 4 out of 5 stars. The pros are a good plot that keeps raising the stakes and a satisfying ending that successfully addresses all the plot points. The cons are the lack of character arcs and the somewhat boring (and ineffective) courtroom scenes to the plot.
Abiding Conviction by Stephen M. Murphy Book Review
Want more legal thrillers? Check out the top 25 courtroom drama novels.
This book is the third in the series of Dutch Francis, attorney-at-law. It appears to be published by an indie publisher (Oceanview Publishing), who does mystery and crime thrillers. The first two in the series were self-published. I will probably go back and read the other two, since I enjoyed this book.
Attorney Dutch Francis is a sole practitioner. He takes mostly contingency fee cases (a percentage of the win), but he also does the occasional criminal case. He is married to Ginnie, a news anchor.
Book Synopsis of Abiding Conviction
The book begins with Ginnie, and she’s pregnant. But she doesn’t know if she wants to keep the baby. They kinda sorta but not really have a fight about whether Ginnie will have an abortion.
Dutch is representing Judge Carlos Garcia, who has been accused to murdering his wife, Maureen Garcia. Maureen was poisoned by an overdose of crushed up hydrocodone. The family computer just happened to have a search for killing a person with crushed up hydrocodone. And Judge Garcia was having an affair.
Anyway, Dutch is at the preliminary hearing. During the intermission, we learn that Ginnie had some (typical) threatening phone calls. No biggie. Just some whacky people, displacing their anger.
After the prelim, Dutch meets Grace Handford, the wife of a former client. This former client committed suicide after he wrote a letter to his employer against Dutch’s legal advice, then Dutch helped the client revise the letter after learning the letter would be sent anyway. Can you guess what happened next?
And then the wife displaces her anger. Onto Dutch.
Later the evening, Dutch is watching his wife on television. He expects her home, but she doesn’t come home. He calls around, goes to the station, finds her cell phone, calls the police … and then immediately gets stonewalled by a cop (Leary) with a chip on her shoulder. The other cop is Delahunty, who is friends with Dutch.
His wife has been kidnapped. An Dutch is the prime suspect. Because most of the time, it’s the husband. That’s a theme of the book, by the way.
The next day, Dutch wants a continuance, which his client (Garcia) won’t give to him. He then wants to withdraw, which the judge won’t grant.
Dutch and his investigator then follow up on some leads (all of which do not pan out), and all the while, he is getting creepy things in the mail. Like Ginnie’s hair, her fingernail clippings, and pubic hair, eww.
In between this investigation, Dutch is defending Judge Garcia. Garcia alludes to an alternative theory other than Maureen killing herself with the overdose of hydrocodone. But Dutch doesn’t want to hear it. Because he cannot present a suicide theory if another alternative exists.
Oh, by the way, Ginnie’s mother is convinced that Dutch killed her daughter. Just great.
Dutch does some investigating into Carlos Garcia and finds out that Maureen was also cheating. And Maureen’s boyfriend dumped her the same day as she died.
Dutch keeps on investigating. I was trying to figure out what in the world the police were doing in all of this, but I couldn’t figure it out.
Garcia is “bound over,” which meant that there was enough evidence to have a trial.
Dutch finally gets a ransom of $300,000. But, it turns out to be a fake.
They pick a jury, a good mix.
At this point in the book, the scenes are traded back and forth between courtroom scenes and investigation of Ginnie’s kidnapping. There isn’t much to tell about court because the information is not relevant to the book in any way.
At any rate, Dutch puts two and two together to make four, and we go back to Grace Handford. Who kidnapped Ginnie and put her on a (melting) block of ice. So she will slowly suffocate herself. Grace ends up killing herself once she is caught.
And Judge Garcia has a hung jury. Seven out of the twelve called for “not guilty” while the other five were “guilty” verdicts. The DA decides not to run another trial.
Judge Garcia gives the final twist, though: Maureen was trying to poison him. At the last minute, he switched their plates because he didn’t want the bigger portion. And in doing so, Maureen ended up killing herself.
Legal Review of Abiding Conviction by Stephen M. Murphy
I don’t really have a lot to comment about the legal scenes, other than this book went fast. And when I say fast, I do not mean the pacing. I mean that the trial happened the next day after the preliminary hearing. This does not happen.
Judges are busy people, and court dockets are jam packed with arguments, sentencing, briefs, jury trials, bench trials, and appeal memos. And believe it or not, there are lots and lots of trials. Here in Pennsylvania, the most common crime is the DUI (driving under the influence).
I do understand that the book needed to have everything in the same time frame, so I consider this timing issue to be a minor problem.
My other issue, as I’ve mentioned, though, is that the courtroom scenes have very little to do with the book. I call this pointless filler. In other words, Dutch could have been writing in his diary, or a grocery list, or even going to the movies. The solution to the issue (Ginnie got kidnapped) had only a tangential intersection to the legal case at hand (Judge Garcia accused of murdering Maureen).
Maureen’s Legal Bottom Line
The pointless filler, in combination with the lack of a character arc, is why I deducted a star. In the end, Ginnie realizes that she wants to have a family. But she is not a main character. It was Dutch who needed to have the change of heart … that Ginnie gave up her career to be with him, so he will support her in any decision that she makes.
However, this book is a good third book for Stephen M. Murphy. I look forward to reading Book One and Book Two, as well as future installments of the Dutch Francis series.