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Posts Tagged ‘Donna Meredith’

Donna Meredith Reviews Terry Lewis’s Latest Legal Thriller, Delusional

In Arts & Letters, Book Reviews, Books, Creative Writing, Fiction, Humanities, Justice, Law, Law-and-Literature, Literary Theory & Criticism, Literature, Novels, Writing on December 18, 2013 at 8:47 am
Donna Meredith

Donna Meredith

Donna Meredith is a freelance writer living in Tallahassee, Florida. She taught English, journalism, and TV production in public high schools in West Virginia and Georgia for 29 years. Donna earned a BA in Education with a double major in English and Journalism from Fairmont State College, an MS in Journalism from West Virginia University, and an EdS in English from Nova Southeastern University. She has also participated in fiction writing workshops at Florida State University and served as a newsletter editor for the Florida State Attorney General’s Office. The Glass Madonna was her first novel. It won first place for unpublished women’s fiction in the Royal Palm Literary Awards, sponsored by the Florida Writers Association, and runner up in the Gulf Coast novel writing contest. Her second novel, The Color of Lies, won the gold medal for adult fiction in 2012 from the Florida Publishers Association and also first place in unpublished women’s fiction from the Florida Writers Association. Her latest book is nonfiction, Magic in the Mountains, the amazing story of how a determined and talented woman revived the ancient art of cameo glass in the twentieth century in West Virginia.  She is currently working on a series of environmental thrillers featuring a female hydrogeologist as the lead character.

Ted Stevens, still sporting a host of flaws, returns as a criminal defense lawyer in another gripping courtroom mystery by Terry Lewis.

Delusional, the third in the Ted Stevens series, follows Conflict of Interest and Privileged Information. It is Lewis’s most compelling book yet.

In Delusional Ted is appointed by the court to defend Nathan Hart, a young man confined to the Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee for murdering his family—a crime Ted prosecuted.

Now Nathan is accused of murdering Aaron Rosenberg, a psychologist and administrator at the mental hospital. The motive? Rosenberg denied Nathan’s latest request to be released.

Not only did Nathan threaten to kill Rosenberg, but also an eyewitness placed Nathan at the murder scene, where his clothes were later found with blood stains.

The novel alternates first person accounts between Ted and Nathan, creating strong psychological profiles of both men and powerful suspense. This technique keeps us deeply involved and probing for the truth until the last pages.

As Ted delves into hospital affairs, he begins to wonder, despite all the evidence to the contrary, if Nathan might be innocent. Ted’s doubts infect the reader, but as we learn how clever and warped Nathan is, we don’t want to be manipulated by him any more than Ted does.

Nathan Hart is a fascinating character. We never doubt that he is mentally ill. We might give him a pass on believing God talks to him, because as he puts it: “Communication with the creator of the universe is not the sign of a mind out of touch with reality but of a soul in touch with the cosmos.”

But Nathan also believes his family members were involved in a worldwide conspiracy, part of a covert agency called “The Unit.” His evidence? Dog-eared magazines left on an end table. The arrangement of food in the refrigerator. A door left slightly ajar. You get the idea—Nathan is nuts. But he is also highly intelligent and can be charming at times.

What Ted has to determine is whether Nathan’s claims of innocence are valid—or just the rants of a delusional, paranoid schizophrenic.

Several staff members, though it seems unlikely, could have murdered Rosenberg. Frank Hutchinson, legal counsel at the hospital, might have motive. His wife, a psychologist, is rumored to have had an affair with the deceased. Dr. Rebecca Whitsen, Nathan’s psychologist; and James Washington, a social worker; had access to Nathan’s clothes and his food and medications—and Nathan swears he was being poisoned. Another possibility is the hospital’s Chief of Security. He is being investigated for sexual misconduct with patients. Rosenberg pushed the investigation, in which Nathan served as a witness.

Nathan also believes his uncle, a professor of international studies, could be behind the murder because of the Hart family’s connections to “The Unit.” Ted dismisses that as nonsense, but might the uncle have other reasons to want his nephew incarcerated?

And since this is a mental hospital, other patients with criminal tendencies provide alternatives Ted can present to a jury. Donnie Mercer is an inmate capable of violence. And then there is the mysterious Cindy Sands, a former patient who once stalked Dr. Whitsen.

Like any good series, this one has personal issues that develop from book to book. The client isn’t the only one with delusions. Ted Stevens fools himself into believing he has his addictions under control, but his substance abuse jeopardizes his career and the stability of his family.

Ted drinks and uses drugs to overcome “constant melancholy, which at times became a sadness so deep and dark nothing could penetrate it.” When under the influence, he demonstrates poor judgment and loses control of his temper. He creates more problems for himself, and then has even more reason to descend into that dark hole.

Watching layer upon layer of this psychological mystery peel away to reveal the truth is pure pleasure. The final judgment is messy, like real life, where evaluating good and evil can be difficult.

If you enjoy a good legal thriller, you’ll love this one for its complex characters and riveting plot.

Terry Lewis brings a wealth of courtroom experience to bear on his novels. He has been a circuit court judge in the Second Judicial Circuit in Florida since 1998, with prior service as a county judge in that circuit from 1989-98. His most famous decision occurred during the 2000 presidential election when he determined Florida’s secretary of state had to include recounted ballots in her final state presidential tally. The decision was ultimately overturned by the Supreme Court, and George W. Bush became president.

Terry Lewis

Terry Lewis

Donna Meredith Reviews “Keep No Secrets,” by Julie Compton

In Arts & Letters, Books, Fiction, Humanities, Law, Law-and-Literature, Novels, Writing on July 17, 2013 at 8:45 am

Donna Meredith is a freelance writer living in Tallahassee, Florida. She taught English, journalism, and TV production in public high schools in West Virginia and Georgia for 29 years. Donna earned a BA in Education with a double major in English and Journalism from Fairmont State College, an MS in Journalism from West Virginia University, and an EdS in English from Nova Southeastern University. She has also participated in fiction writing workshops at Florida State University and served as a newsletter editor for the Florida State Attorney General’s Office. The Glass Madonna was her first novel. It won first place for unpublished women’s fiction in the Royal Palm Literary Awards, sponsored by the Florida Writers Association, and runner up in the Gulf Coast novel writing contest. Her second novel, The Color of Lies, won the gold medal for adult fiction in 2012 from the Florida Publishers Association and also first place in unpublished women’s fiction from the Florida Writers Association. Her latest book is nonfiction, Magic in the Mountains, the amazing story of how a determined and talented woman revived the ancient art of cameo glass in the twentieth century in West Virginia.  She is currently working on a series of environmental thrillers featuring a female hydrogeologist as the lead character.

Julie Compton

Above: Julie Compton

The following review is appearing simultaneously in Southern Literary Review.

Keep No Secrets, Julie Compton’s powerful sequel to Tell No Lies, is guaranteed to keep readers turning pages into the wee hours of the morning. Both of Compton’s courtroom thrillers are set in St. Louis, Missouri, where she grew up.

Like Jodi Picoult’s best works, Compton’s novels sizzle with all the trust, betrayal, love, and forgiveness family relationships entail—especially when you expose their private conflicts in a public courtroom. Her books seem to pose this question: how well can you know even those people closest to you?

Read Tell No Lies first. Though the sequel provides enough backstory to be a great read on its own, without understanding the first book you’d miss the riveting psychological development of the primary characters, all of whom star in the sequel as well.

In Tell No Lies, idealistic lawyer Jack Hilliard leaves behind a lucrative private practice to run for district attorney. The plot centers around a high-profile murder case. Jack is easy to like because he tries so hard to do the right thing. But there wouldn’t be a story if he were perfect. He yields to one temptation, which hurls his life on a downward spiral that nearly ends his marriage and his career.

The final plot twist leaves you wondering if Jack has been manipulated. Compton is that rare author who trusts her readers’ intelligence. She allows us to figure things out for ourselves, to experience the same doubts as Jack Hilliard. It makes the novel more like our own lives, where we can’t always tell what people’s motives are or know when they are lying.

Keep No Secrets begins four and a half years after the events of Tell No Lies. During that time, Jack Hilliard has worked arduously to repair the damage caused by his mistakes—and has largely succeeded. Until the night he finds his teenage son Michael having sex with his girlfriend. They are drunk. Being a white knight kind of guy, Jack gives the girl a ride home. In an effort to win back his son’s love and respect, Jack doesn’t tell his wife about Michael’s transgressions. That car ride sets off an unforeseeable chain of events that threaten to wreck Jack’s career and marriage once again.

Think that’s enough dirt to dump on a nice guy like Jack? Not a chance. The already untenable situation deteriorates further when Jenny Dodson, the woman involved in his earlier downfall, reappears after all these years, asking for his help. He can’t say no, but he vows to keep his wife truthfully informed of everything that happens. He does. Sort of. “The lies aren’t what he says; they’re what he doesn’t say”—this is a refrain Compton artfully employs several times.

This novel deals with social issues like the impact of adultery and sexual assault on families. Most readers are going to put themselves in the various characters’ situations and ask themselves if they would have behaved differently. Would we lie to protect a loved one? What if you knew something that would put the one you love in jail or in danger? Would you tell the truth? What if not telling keeps an innocent person imprisoned? How far should we trust the legal system? If a spouse gave us reason to doubt, could we forgive and trust again? When is it time to give a marriage another chance—and when is it time to walk away?

Compton’s novels are as fine as any courtroom thrillers out there. Though her use of present tense can be a bit distracting, the well-plotted series sparkles with psychologically complex characters.

For both undergraduate work and law school, Compton attended Washington University in Missouri. She began her legal career there, but last practiced in Wilmington, Delaware, as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice. She now lives near Orlando with her husband and two daughters and writes full-time. She is also the author of Rescuing Olivia, a novel of suspense, romance, and family drama.

Below: Donna Meredith

Donna Meredith

Southern Literary Review

In Arts & Letters, Creative Writing, Essays, Fiction, Humanities, Literary Theory & Criticism, Literature, News and Current Events, News Release, Novels, Poetry, Writing on November 13, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Allen Mendenhall

I have become the managing editor of the Southern Literary Review.  Writer and editor Phil Jason will serve as editor and publisher of the journal.  Former editors Julie Cantrell and Adele Annesi  have stepped down after a successful tenure.  They increased readership and brought on new contributors, including Sean Ennis, Kerry Madden, Matthew Simmons, Donna Meredith, Christopher Bundrick, Peter Schmitt, Paul Yarbrough, Rhett DeVane, Danielle Sellers, Abigail Greenbaum, Patricia O’Sullivan, Peggy Kassees, Heather Cousins, Niles Reddick, and Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum.

Founded in 2009, the Southern Literary Review celebrates southern authors and their contributions to American literature in general and Southern literature in particular. We feature the classic writers who have defined Southern literature, and we highlight emerging authors through interviews, profiles, and book reviews.  Please check out the journal by clicking here.  The journal will undergo updates and upgrades in the coming weeks.

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