Crime Fiction Alphabet: U is for Undertow

We’ve reached the awkward bits of the alphabet for the Crime Fiction Alphabet meme and I admit I’ve found it a little difficult to come up with titles for my final 6 contributions. The back-end of the alphabet is just not as well serviced as the rest. The letter U is apparently so awkward that both the meme host (Kerrie from Mysteries in Paradise) and I have chosen the same book. Kerrie has already posted her take on the book and I really should look for something else but I simply don’t have time this week so I’ll have to submit my post about the same book 😦

The letter U takes me back to Undertow by Sydney Bauer which I read when it was released in 2006. It’s a legal thriller in which Boston lawyer David Cavanagh defends a woman, another lawyer, named Rayna Martin, charged with murder. Martin was supervising a sailing trip to celebrate her daughter’s 16th birthday. When the boat capsizes one of the children, the daughter of Federal Senator Rudolph Haynes, drowns while Martin is rescuing the other three. Accusations of racism are leveled at Martin because the girl who drowned was the only white person on the trip.

Sydney Bauer is an Australian author who sets her books in the US and seems to have grasped the intricacies of the US political and judicial systems well. Undertow really is an old-fashioned legal thriller, focusing on the ways in which events, and people, can be manipulated to appear differently depending on interpretation. It is perhaps more than a little sad that I found it so easy to believe in a character like Rudolph Haynes who freely abuses his power as a politician to achieve his nastily racist ideals and a little less easy to swallow the ‘good guy’ and very likable Cavanagh.

Undertow was Bauer’s first novel and is a solid debut, bearing good similarities to the early John Grisham novels which I enjoyed. It shows how a law suit can be put together in such a way that even when no one disagrees about the facts you can still tell wildly different stories.

On the issue of covers I am ever bemused. I presume the first two are supposed to both be Boston but they don’t even look like the same skyline to me. I’d have gone for the boat myself.

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2 Responses to Crime Fiction Alphabet: U is for Undertow

  1. Bernadette – Thanks very much for this. It sounds from this review like a very solid novel, and when they’re done well, legal thrillers can be great.


  2. Pingback: Goodbye to the Crime Fiction Alphabet « Reactions to Reading

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