Brogan McClane grew up on the wrong side of the Glasgow tracks. Now a member of the Scottish bar, McClane’s life seems to be going well until an unpopular judge is found murdered. The victim’s wealthy and well-connected friends see McClane’s past antagonism with the judge as the perfect reason to choose him as scapegoat.
McClane is arrested and charged with the murder. With the help his equally well-connected underworld friends and an honest police officer, McClane must fight the corruption endemic in Parliament House to save his freedom and his career.
Theme of the Book
The Trial is a book about greed and ambition taken to unacceptable levels. It is a story that shows that one or two honest people can, indeed, fight against corruption and win.
What I Liked About the Story
The Trial is a fast-paced thriller in the style of John Grisham and Scott Turow. From the first pages, the reader is caught up in Brogan McClane’s plight. Mr. Mayer manages to maintain the suspense right up to the end of the novel when the killer and his motivation are revealed. There is no ‘dead space’ in the story with action and conspiracy throughout.
Mr. Mayer does not shy away from difficult subjects. The murdered judge, as becomes apparent from the beginning, is involved in some very questionable sexual practices. This is not for the faint of heart. While there are no sexually explicit scenes, the novel tackles the subject of child sexual abuse with frankness but with sympathy for the victims. In addition, Mr. Mayer handles the topic of high-level corruption very well. Those involved in the plot against McClane are shown as human beings with their motivations evident. The reader may find those motives reprehensible, but they are always understandable in the context of Parliament House.
It would be very discouraging to believe that the corruption described in the novel is based on fact. We want to believe that there is justice, that our judges, police, and prosecutors are honest and fair. Whether Mr. Mayer has actual evidence of the behaviors he writes about, the reader will believe.
Aside from Brogan McClane, the most appealing character in the story is Big Joe Mularkey. Mularkey is the godfather of Glasgow criminals and seems to be able to carry out all sorts of clandestine activities with no problem at all. But Mularkey also has a human side. He is grieving the incarceration of his son and this gives him the motivation to act on McClane’s behalf.
Many Amazon reviewers have commented that the use of dialect in dialogue made understanding difficult. I did not find this to be so and, in fact, found the use of dialect to be consistent with the characters.
There is very little explicit violence in the novel and no explicit sex. I admire a writer who can produce a complex crime novel without falling back on scenes of sex and violence to make his point. Mr. Mayer has written a story that will engage and sometimes infuriate the reader but has done so with style and with intricate plotting.
What I Didn’t Like About the Story
While reading The Trial, I spent quite a bit of time on Google learning about the Scottish legal system. Since he is writing for an international audience, Mr. Mayer might think about adding a short glossary of Scottish legal terms so that readers do not have to interrupt their reading with research.
McClane’s wife, Joanne, is a puzzle. She seems to have psychological problems, perhaps resulting from the death of their child. However, this is left to the reader to deduce as there is almost no backstory for her. Even for McClane, there is little indication of why he is the way he is. This lack of background applies to most characters who then seem one-dimensional.
As the plot progresses, the reader learns that it is not only McClane who is a target but that Mularkey is also being watched. Suddenly, we find the presence of the military, of MI5,and the SIS. Where did this come from? A clearer explanation of Mularkey’s past would have helped.
On the whole, The Trial is a well-constructed and well-written legal thriller. I enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next book by Mr. Mayer.