Book Review: Proof Positive, by Phillip Margolin

Another negative review for you today. I’ve found a reason in my old age to finish books I dislike. The pain of reading them is balanced (at least somewhat) by the pleasure of insulting the authors, at a safe distance. The petty vengeance of the failed novelist.

Proof Positive is a legal thriller written from viewpoint of the defense side.

It led this reader to root for prosecutors even more than a Robert K. Tanenbaum novel could.

It’s one in a series of novels starring a young female defense attorney in Portland, Oregon named Amanda Jaffe. She’s the daughter of a prominent criminal lawyer.

The story starts with the execution of a convicted murderer by lethal injection. His lawyer, Doug Weaver, observes the death of his gentle, not-too-bright client, consoling himself that the man must have been guilty, because a forensic expert found his fingerprint on the murder weapon.

Later, mobster Art Prochaska is arrested for the murder of a drug dealer. Amanda, whose father has often represented Prochaska’s boss, is retained to represent him.

There’s damning forensic evidence against Prochaska, but by now the author has revealed to us that the forensic investigator who documented the evidence is in fact in the practice of planting manufactured clues.

At the same time, Doug Weaver is retained to defend a psychotic young man accused of murder, also the victim of falsified forensics.

As the attorneys seek the truth, the crooked CSI begins to commit murders of his own, in order to protect himself.

If this synopsis seems a little dry, it’s because I DIDN’T CARE FOR ANY OF THESE CHARACTERS FOR ONE SINGLE MOMENT!

That’s an exaggeration. I found two human scenes in the book. One was where the young psychotic meets with his parents in the jail, and they finally make a connection after many years. The other involved a moment of sexual banter between two lovers.

Other than that, author Margolin took apparent pains to keep us eternally at an emotional distance from his characters. One of his irritating techniques was to always convey his characters’ thoughts at a remove, saying (for example), “He thought that he made a mistake…” rather than, “He thought, ‘I made a mistake.’”

And all the characters do this tedious thinking in the same way. Men and women. Cops and civilians. Professional criminals and solid citizens. There was nothing to distinguish them in their characterizations. They all thought and reacted (at least to my perception) in precisely identical ways.

This was especially annoying in regard to the gangsters in the book. Margolin didn’t seem to care at all that these were very bad guys who make their livelihoods off human suffering. They were targets of the rogue CSI, so they were treated as charming and slightly amusing tough guys.

Margolin obviously wants us to realize that police power can be abused, and that even forensic evidence isn’t always solid. True enough. There have been cases like this, where the system has been abused.

But he undercuts his argument by whitewashing the crooks and (especially) by BORING ME WITH A DULL NARRATIVE.

Margolin is apparently a very successful novelist. I have no idea why, on the basis of this book.

One thought on “Book Review: Proof Positive, by Phillip Margolin”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.