Review

Eye of the Beholder

by David Ellis

Full
disclosure requires me to begin my review of EYE OF THE BEHOLDER by
mentioning that David Ellis and I share the same hometown of
Springfield, Illinois. We also are both attorneys who work in some
capacity for the State of Illinois. Similarities come to an abrupt
halt at this point because, although I write about and review
books, I only wish that I could produce mystery novels as ingenious
and enjoyable as those that flow from the pen of this talented
Springfield lawyer.

Ellis serves as legal counsel for the Speaker of the Illinois House
of Representatives. For those of you familiar with the
Machiavellian nature of Illinois politics, it may be that
experience that provides Ellis with the imaginative and enthralling
characters and plots that are produced in his novels. Several of
Ellis’s works are comparable to those of John Grisham in that
they only tangentially relate to the legal profession. Lawyers are
central figures in the mystery, but they don’t spend a great
deal of time in courtrooms. I make this observation not as
criticism but simply to let readers know that EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
is about lawyers and the law, though it’s much more mystery
than courtroom fiction.

The novel opens with protagonist Paul Riley in the situation that
most young prosecutors dream of but rarely experience. Riley is in
charge of the investigation and ultimate prosecution of Terry
Burgos, a serial killer whose macabre crimes are the type that make
both media headlines and legal careers. For Riley, the Burgos
prosecution does just that, but on the night that he’s
executed, Burgos whispers last words to Riley that will haunt the
prosecutor.

The story jumps ahead over a decade, and Riley is now a successful
attorney with powerful clients and political connections. With a
nod of his head, Riley can become a federal judge. But new crimes
eerily similar to the Burgos killings threaten all of his success.
Because of his intimate knowledge of the Burgos case, Riley is
called upon to assist authorities in the new investigation. In that
task, Riley has to go back to his 15-year-old investigation and
second-guess decisions made in the original prosecution. Riley must
ask himself the question that prosecutors fear most: “Did I
send an innocent man to his execution?”

In the Burgos prosecution, Riley kept some secrets --- perhaps to
achieve justice, but perhaps also to assuage some politically
powerful people. Now, years later, those secrets begin to unravel
and the onion-like peeling away of them threatens people Riley
knows both personally and professionally. As the novel unfolds and
secrets are exposed, readers will find many surprising twists and
turns as authorities rush to solve a mystery that reaches to the
highest levels of power. Ellis creates intricate plots but gives
readers ample opportunity to solve the mysteries. After reading his
newest book, you may want to go back and re-read sections to find
some clues that you may have missed along the way.

EYE OF THE BEHOLDER is an entertaining book that will have you
thinking about some significant legal issues, from the death
penalty to the notion of equal justice. It should be near the very
top of your summer reading list.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on January 21, 2011

Eye of the Beholder
by David Ellis

  • Publication Date: August 5, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • ISBN-10: 0425222918
  • ISBN-13: 9780425222911