Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Hidden Man by David Ellis

A little girl, snatched from her bed in the dead of night. They knew who killed her. They couldn’t prove it. 26 years later, her brother Sammy doesn’t care about proof. He only cares about justice. Now, only his childhood best friend, attorney Jason Kolarich, can save Sammy from a life sentence for killing a killer.

To defend Sammy, Jason must do what authorities could not, decades ago—prove the guilt of the pedophile who killed Sammy’s sister. But a mysterious benefactor, “Mr. Smith,” suddenly appears, offering money, resources, even alibis for Sammy’s defense. And he will stop at nothing—threatening the lives of Jason and his family—to control the outcome of the case. As the trial draws near, Jason races against time to save his family from Mr. Smith’s team and his friend Sammy from life in prison, while two crimes, decades apart, converge in a stunning verdict.

THE HIDDEN MAN introduces Jason Kolarich, a mid-30s attorney whose career took off after he won a headliner case—a high-profile political corruption trial—when his life suddenly turned upside-down following a personal tragedy. Tough, smart, and wise-cracking, and now recovering from his personal loss, Jason is a lawyer who sees the ends justifying the means.

When Jason Kolarich's wife and daughter are killed in a car accident his life is turned upside down. He quits his job and barely functions. Jason guilts himself each day over what he could have done differently to save their lives.

Sammy Cutler is on trial for the murder of Griffin Perlini. Everyone knows that Griffin abducted and killed Sammy's sister when they were kids, but he was never convicted. The night Griffin was murdered Sammy was in the area, but he has not admitted to the crime. No one really wants Sammy to rot in prison for bringing justice to the case, and with four weeks until trial a "benefactor" has shown interest in getting Sammy acquitted. Smith, spokesman for the benefactor, will provide the chosen defense team with whatever is necessary to make that happen with one major stipulation - no delaying the trial. Sammy is unaware of Jason's recent tragedy and wants Jason to be his lawyer. Jason and Sammy were childhood best friends. Now they are on opposite sides of the law, but maintain a mutual respect for one another.

Jason agrees to take the case even though he knows he really isn't ready for this kind of trial in a "best case scenario", and with only four weeks to prepare this is far from best case. He must prove the Griffin killed Sammy's little sister and is a child molester. He must also bring to light other potential murders- choosing from the many families affected by Griffin's abuse of little girls. During this month he will drag himself further in over his head than any sane man, and will push the limits of those trying to keep the light off of themselves.

I enjoyed this legal mystery. The twists and turns in the plot had me guessing right up to the end. It was fast-paced and easy to read. The court room scenes were realistic to me. I have no actual idea what would happen in a courtroom, but the author David Ellis is also an attorney so I am guessing he does. I could actually seeing this book being a good movie.

Jason, was well developed as a grieving man. His grief pushed him to make decisions another person would not consider. He was repeatedly willing to put his life -or someone else's- on the line, because he just didn't care enough about living to choose differently. This is the first book in a new series featuring Jason Kolarich. My only concern is that Mr. Ellis won't be able to continue portraying Jason at this level of grief for too many books. Of course, as he grows and gets further past the loss of his wife and daughter that opens up the possibility of love interests and more advanced cases.

My only issue with the book was something I found a bit confusing. Throughout the story Jason has flashes of thought of his wife and child. I initially thought these were memories, but then his wife became pregnant in his fantasies and more children were added. I began to assume they were fantasies of what could have been, but it wasn't entirely clear. I emailed the author to ask and this was his response:

Hi, Alison. Thanks for writing. You are not the only one to ask that question. These were not memories ... in fact, none of the scenes featuring his wife (Talia) and daughter (Emily) were flashbacks so much as fantasies going forward ... nothing that really happened but the kinds of things that WOULD HAVE happened, had they lived and been together as a happy family. Jason, you'll recall, was completely consumed by a big trial during most of the three months that Emily was alive before the accident.
So long and short, you were correct, it was just his fantasy projecting forward. I wish I hadn't done it because it confused people. Thanks for writing and glad you enjoyed it.

So, I was glad to know I wasn't the only one a little confused, and it made sense when he confirmed my suspicion.

That being said, I think Mr. Ellis writes an intense legal thriller and I would definitely read the next book in this series.

Thanks to Lydia at Penguin for providing me this book to review.


  1. Interesting. The might-have-beens seem like quite a neat idea, if confusing. And of course, if I read it now I won't be confused. Nice that you and the author could exchange emails.

  2. Pretty cool that he took the time to answer you! Sounds like a good book I might look for it I have the chance.

  3. Thank you for solving this dilema for me. I enjoyed the book, but when he thinks about baby Justine. I anticipated another twist, I felt a big let down when the book finished and I was left confused. I didn't want to ask the author direct (although I did go over his website and facebook hoping for a clue), as there are so many five-star reviews of the book that do not refer to this, I started to feel it must just be me who didn't get it!