Review

The Legal Limit

by Martin Clark

Part courtroom novel, part mystery and part family saga, THE
LEGAL LIMIT is a book that, while predictable, is still enjoyable
and easy to read. The characters are familiar to most, and their
trials and tribulations are neither unusual nor unanticipated.
Nevertheless, everything about the people portrayed here and the
events that shape their lives is compelling and interesting.
Perhaps it is because Martin Clark, a Virginia trial court judge,
knows of what he writes. This is his third work of fiction, and in
each of his books he writes with a clear and easy style while still
confronting important issues of law and justice.

While the setting of THE LEGAL LIMIT is modern-day rural
Virginia, the saga presented is as old as the Bible. Mason Hunt and
his brother, Gates, are the protagonists in a story as old as time
itself. Mason is bright and accomplished, and will pursue his
education and become a successful attorney. Gates, while equally
talented, will squander all of his opportunities and spend the
majority of his life incarcerated in Virginia prisons. But before
any of this can occur, the two will be inextricably connected by
the events of one evening when a crime is committed that forever
impacts their lives.

After completing law school, Mason seems to have the idyllic
life. An attorney who marries a beautiful artist, he returns to his
hometown at the request of the legal community to begin a new
career as the local prosecutor. Clark’s portrayal of the life
of a small-town prosecutor is spot-on. Most cases are routine, and
everyone in the community wants vigorous justice unless the case
involves their friend or relative.

Mason’s life is shattered by personal tragedy with a plot
twist deftly engineered by Clark. But this is overshadowed by the
conflict between brothers that serves as the dénouement of THE
LEGAL LIMIT. Readers will not be surprised by the ensuing battle
between Mason and Gates, but it will nonetheless be a
thought-provoking and legally engrossing narrative.

Through a wry sense of humor and local knowledge established by
his personal life in rural Virginia, Clark introduces his audience
to a long list of characters who run the gamut of good and evil.
Custis Norman, Mason’s assistant prosecutor, is in many ways
the brother who Mason would have loved to have. His sense of humor
and generosity stand in stark contrast to Gates, a bitter prison
inmate scheming to do anything to earn his release from
incarceration.

Parts of THE LEGAL LIMIT are predictable and somewhat
overwrought. But when Clark focuses on legal issues, the gripping
portion of this novel, his skill as a writer shines through. Mason
seems to be painted into a legal corner but finds a way out.
Clark’s narrative establishes that often the law and justice
can yield contrary outcomes.

Summer has come to an unofficial end, so I cannot recommend THE
LEGAL LIMIT as a great summer vacation book. But it nonetheless is
an enjoyable read for anyone who savors courtroom novels with
delicate twists and turns.

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Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on December 30, 2010

The Legal Limit
by Martin Clark

  • Publication Date: June 2, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 0307388662
  • ISBN-13: 9780307388667