Reviewed by: BigAl
Genre: Legal Thriller
Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words
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A native of rural, northern Illinois, Kirk Ross is a graduate of Chicago’s Northwest University Law School and has worked in a large, big city law firm as well as smaller firms, specializing in estate planning and trust administration. He’s not too different from his protagonist, Jack Mitchell. This is Ross’ first book.
“The future…and the very survival…of one unborn child hang on the skill and courage of one young attorney in search of his own redemption…
The McKenzies are dead. All of them. And thus the fate of one of America’s largest fortunes is in limbo. Then the bank which controls the vast fortune suddenly produces a man it claims is the only surviving member of the family. Although no one had ever heard of this cousin before, his inheritance seems secure…
…until a McKenzie widow discovers she is pregnant with her dead husband’s child. Should the McKenzie fortune belong to the child…or is it already too late? Attorney Jack Mitchell will do whatever it takes to make sure his unborn client receives justice…even if it costs him everything.
In Kirk Ross’ just-completed legal thriller, the law is a battlefield, but it’s the war outside of the courtroom that will keep Jack and the last McKenzie just one step ahead of a dangerously final verdict.”
I’ve been a big fan of the legal thriller for what seems like forever, both those from the big names of the genre like John Grisham or those less well known: Rebecca Forster, for example. As with many genres, the legal thriller has some genre conventions or formulas. Although not as strict as the romance, it shares a few of that genre’s conventions. You can anticipate a happy ending. You know there will be some tense moments and bumps along the way. The key to the story is not being able to see how the story will get from point A to point B. To use a cliché, the journey is the reward. If the journey is too predictable, it isn’t a trip worth taking.
My biggest issue with The Last McKenzie was that it failed in taking the reader on an unpredictable journey. The foundation of a good story was established early, with a mystery (three siblings who had all died suspiciously within a few weeks of each other) and a legal conflict to be resolved (obtaining the rights to a trust fund for a baby conceived just before the death of the last sibling). However, just after hitting the 20% mark of the book, I knew the answer to the mystery, who committed or arranged for the three deaths, and why. I knew there was going to be at least one more murder attempted, who the intended victim would be, and why. While the details were fuzzy, the big picture couldn’t have been more clear.
The characters also seemed like clichés. The lawyer, looking to redeem himself for a past mistake by acting as a white knight for the attractive heroine. The amoral (bordering on crazy) villain, willing to do anything to win. The opposing lawyer, who has no scruples and the power and resources of a big law firm backing him. I could quibble with some of the plot details, some of which are also clichéd (a small twist on the tired plot point that twins have the same DNA for one), or point to some clunky writing, but instead will end by saying, I think this book is a pass.
A small number of typos and proofreading issues.
Rating: ** Two stars