The Legal Limit
Martin Clark
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Buy *The Legal Limit* by Martin Clark online

The Legal Limit
Martin Clark
Knopf
Hardcover
368 pages
July 2008
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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When two brothers make a solemn pact on a dark country road in 1984, they vow neither will mention this night again. Bonded by blood and years of surviving a violent father, Gates and Mason Hunt have no idea what the future will hold, that the handsome, gregarious Gates will waste the years on partying and drugs, Mason buckling down to law school, marriage, and fathering a beautiful daughter.

Their long-suffering mother worries for her boys, afraid for Gates and the temper so like his fatherís, proud of Masonís accomplishments. Mason devotes himself to career and family until a terrible tragedy tears his world apart; Gates ends up in prison, his refusal to negotiate a deal keeping him behind bars for longer than necessary.

Now, the brothers as distant as their lives, Gates attempts to force Mason to intervene on his behalf. As attorney for the commonwealth of Virginia, Gates believes Mason can do something to alleviate his sentence, in spite of Masonís inability to interfere.

With nothing but time and years of resentment about his incarceration, Gates initiates a risky gamble to force his brotherís cooperation. After years of abuse and ingratitude, Mason is unwilling to be drawn into Gatesí plan, his own recent tragedy still painful; now he must use every resource to protect the ones he loves. Putting an interesting twist on the good brother/bad brother scenario in a novel drawn from real life, attorney Martin Clark pens his tale from Masonís perspective, a man sworn to uphold the law but tormented by a poor decision and youthful sense of loyalty.

In the midst of his dilemma, Mason is fortunate to have a sympathetic assistant attorney, the charismatic, dread-locked Custis Norman. With his sense of humor and open generosity, Custis becomes more than an assistant, a true friend through the recent troubles more reliable than a brother. Add a little double-dealing with political overtone to complicate Masonís situation, and everything depends on Masonís ability to game the system.

While his romantic scenes and family situations are somewhat self-conscious, Clark is on firmer ground when dealing with legal issues. He sets his protagonist into a box with no apparent escape, save utter humiliation and the loss of all he holds dear. But Mason is a fighter, perhaps learning different lessons than Gates from their nightmarish childhood. Up against the wall, Mason comes out fighting, unintimidated by Gates and his threats.

The author brings up two issues, both related to the same character, making this reader decidedly uncomfortable. Iím sure they are only for plot interest, but I find the handling of these issues quite insensitive. The author could have made the same impact more creatively, although it is easier to indulge in stereotypes. Nevertheless, highlighting the bizarre perversions of our system of justice, this story is twisted, entertaining and an interesting exercise in loyalty, justice and the vagaries of life for even the most moral men.



Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Luan Gaines, 2008

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