Forster has outdone herself with her third novel in the Witness series. The mystery and suspense of the whodunnit of Forster novels will keep you flipping pages relentlessly, but it’s the intricate heart, depth, and realism of her characters (flaws and all) that makes Forster such a special writer. Josie Baylor-Bates, the heroine, seems to find herself in one extremely personal case after another. Privileged Witness is no exception.
Privileged Witness reunites Josie with her first love, Matthew McCreary, a rising politician whose sister (one that he always told Josie was dead) is accused of murdering his wife. Josie finds herself facing secrets from her past as she puts herself on the front lines of defending McCreary’s sister.Privileged Witness explores previously uncharted depths in Josie, making this – in my opinion – the “richest” of the first three Josie Bates-Baylor series. Josie’s decisions aren’t always likable or admirable, but I can understand her motivations. Forster could have easily given Josie a “hero’s ending” and ride the wave of a likable character, but to her credit, she takes personal risks with Josie which makes for a truly absorbing read.
If you’ve read the first two novels, you’ll know that Josie moved to Hermosa Beach some time ago to escape the down-and-dirty world of Public Defender in order to pursue a quiet, community lawyer lifestyle. She gave up high-profile (and high-income) criminal defense cases after a client she got acquitted went out and murdered someone else. Despite her best intentions, she continually finds herself embroiled in intensely personal, high-profile cases, such as this one which, among other things, will help determine the next Senator of California. As usual, Josie doesn’t know what she’s getting into at first. When Grace McCreary comes to ask her for help, Josie is lead to believe that the cops are suspicious of Matthew’s possible involvement in his wife’s death. When Grace is arrested for murdering Matthew’s wife, Josie’s dumbfounded. Things go swiftly downhill from there, as Josie is constantly blindsided by truths her client’s family neglected to mention to her, the political maneuvering going on behind the scenes to save McCreary’s crumbling senatorial campaign from ruin, a whole snake pit of McCreary family secrets, and her dangerous tendency to sometimes think with her heart rather than her head in this case.
Josie is not the right defender for Grace as she is so emotionally invested, she blindly charges ahead without seeing the yawning pit waiting for her. Her latent feelings for her former lover, Matthew, color some of her actions and decisions – and she’s not the only one who stands to get hurt as events unfold. We find Archer silently dealing with the idea of Josie’s former lover and potential feelings that she has for him. Josie and Archer are still struggling with the relationship wounds left by Josie’s previous case where Archer was accused of murder and secrets about his deceased step-son and wife were revealed. Hannah fears abandonment by Josie and acts out with intense teenage angst and wisdom beyond her years. There’s also a mad, cowardly, sore loser of a wife-beater out there threatening revenge against his ex-wife and her lawyer, which puts Josie as well as those closest to her in danger. Forster works this second storyline into the novel extremely well. It adds another layer to an already tense atmosphere.
Only the most remarkable of women could hold up under all the strain Josie faces from all directions over the course of this novel. There are a lot of things going on all at once here, and the drama of so many fateful characters takes precedence over the legal aspects of the crime itself. You won’t find a shocking courtroom climax at the end of this story, as it’s far too tragic to end in such a commonplace manner. Forster is really expanding the boundaries of her fiction with this effort, and the result is her most memorable novel of the first three in the series.
To learn more about Rebecca Forster and her books, visit her website.
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Published by Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2006
Source: Bought Copy (see my Review Policy)