Family Court Legal Thriller: Review of ‘The Advocate’ by Teresa Burrell

The Advocate is a debut novel by Teresa Burrell. You can read an interview with the author here. ‘The Advocate’ is the first book out of seven in ‘The Advocate’ series. I selected the book from Book Club Reading List.

The Advocate by Teresa Burrell

Front cover of ‘The Advocate’ by Teresa Burrell

The book is about Sabre Orin Brown, a dedicated juvenile court attorney, living in San Diego. Sabre’s professional and personal life entwine as she investigates a particular domestic violence court case that relates to the mysterious disappearance of her older brother Ron some five years earlier.

Summary

The court case involves Gaylord Murdock, a southern gentleman from a prominent family in Atlanta, Georgia; Gaylord’s pregnant girlfriend, Peggy Smith; Gaylord’s ten-year-old daughter, Alexis; and Peggy’s two-year-old son Jamie.

As Sabre uncovers unsettling facts about the case, like Peggy’s missing daughter Honey, strange things happen to her. Occasionally she catches the scent of her brother’s distinctive aftershave. There are frequent calls with no voice on the other end at any time night or day; items in her home and office are moved or misplaced, a live red bat tossed into her office through the mail slot and a lizard in her bed. Eventually Sabre is kidnapped and her house burned down.

Evaluation

The work was engagingly written and conveyed well a sense of what it was like to be a juvenile court attorney without any of the legal jargon. Teresa Burrell, herself an ex-attorney, demonstrated through the writing that she is familiar with the courtroom.

“After the hearing, Sabre gathered her files and went into Department Four to wait for the other attorneys on the domestic violence case. It had been an easy morning so far with mostly old review cases. Just that new domestic violence case and she could go eat. […]
The door opened and the Public Defender entered with Gaylord Murdock, a tall man with sandy blond hair and cutting blue eyes. Murdock stared at Peggy with an intensity that made Sabre shiver. Peggy’s face tightened and she squirmed in her seat, unable to tear herself away from his gaze. After about three seconds, Murdock’s face softened and his lip curled up in a smile. No sign of remorse or shame emanated from him as he glided to his seat with his broad shoulders straight and his head held high.
Sabre watched their interaction and wondered what she failed to see.”

The story was compelling and there were some distinctive unexpected twists to keep interest in the story right to the end. One of the more satisfying elements of the story had to do with Detective Joe Carriage of the Atlanta Police Department. Joe Carriage helps Sabre with background information on the Murdock case and in the process helps to solve a connected case that his deceased colleague Steve Parker was working on before he was killed by a hit and run driver. The wide cast of characters were deftly portrayed from the variety of people encountered in the court house, the group home, social workers, police officers and it is easy to sympathize with Sabre who is strongly devoted to protecting children no matter the cost.

At times, there was a coincidence or incident in the plot that was a bit far-fetched. An instance of this is the role of the doctor who happened to look just like Sabre’s missing brother. Some of the recurring character and features of the story at times seemed to sidetrack from the plot, such as the character of troubled Carla, which had Sabre dealing regularly with visits and phone calls to Carla, and the little tattered red note book given to her by her brother Ron when she was a little girl. Nonetheless Burrell did well to tie all of these elements together by the end of the book.

Conclusion

Overall The Advocate by Teresa Burrell is a very good legal thriller and a fast-paced, heartwarming read. I am going to read the rest of the books in the series for sure. A warning: if you start this book in the evening you might not end up going to sleep until very late that night. For that reason I’m giving the book five stars.


The Advocate by Teresa Burrell (2009)

308 Pages. Silent Thunder Publishing

Purchase it at The Book Club Reading List here

Purchase it on Amazon here

Add it to Goodreads here

–Nighttime Narratives

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