Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Robin James has put her own experience as an attorney to good use when she became an author, penning the Mara Brent Legal Thriller series, with the first entry published in 2020, titled Time of Justice. Introducing us to Mara, a prosecutor in a small town, the story follows her involvement in a reopened case, one which gives her the opportunity to put behind bars a real monster who once escaped justice. However, unexpected twists in the courtroom lead her to believe something far more sinister hides behind the scenes.
Table of contents
Robin James Launches Mara Brent on her First Rodeo
The long arms of justice, no matter how big and imposing, tend to be filled with holes and gaps through which many have fallen, and will inevitably continue to do so. Many crimes go unpunished, even ones with concrete victims and strong suspects. It’s a reality we have to learn to live with, but every so often a chance arises to right a wrong from the past, and it’s precisely the kind of opportunity afforded to small-town prosecutor Mara Brent in Time of Justice by Robin James.
The first book in the Mara Brent Legal Thriller Series introduces us to the main character, already with a reputation for being a no-nonsense, tough-as-nails, and thorough agent of the law. Nevertheless, she has a soft spot for many of the victims she has had to work with, having even become friends with a wheelchair-bound rape survivor whom she met during her first day on the job.
Recently, a piece of DNA evidence reopens her case, swiftly leading to the arrest of an apparent monster in human form, the kind whose crimes are of a serial nature. The evidence in Mara’s possession feels iron-clad, and she takes on the responsibility of putting the man behind bars for good, hoping to give his victims at least some form of justice, tardy is might be.
However, the courtroom proceedings are anything but smooth and simple, with one unforeseen bomb dropping after the next. The defence is successful in muddying the waters just enough to colour the whole case in a shade of uncertain grey, and what started as a slam-dunk affair is now under threat of tearing apart at the seams.
Mara isn’t about to give up in the face of the greatest adversity she has faced so far, suspecting someone behind the scenes to be pulling to not only unleash the suspect back in the world, but to also discredit her and put an end to her career. The truth is out there for her to find, and she finds herself in a race against time to uncover the sinister plot before it’s all too late and out of her hands.
Running on a Straight Line in Time of Justice
For one reason or another, courtroom dramas have visibly risen in popularity over the past few years, which consequently led to a new wave of authors trying to leave their marks on the genre. As a result, and this is my opinion based on personal observations and feelings, there is an over-saturation in this market right now, with plenty of legal thrillers having nothing tangible to give, other than a neat little story to be read and forgotten.
As such, I try to be as selective as possible when looking for new works in the genre, and Time of Justice caught my eye for two reasons, with the first one being Robin James‘ stern approach to the structure of the story (more about the second reason later on). Whereas many authors tend to meander when it comes to the progression of the plot and don’t follow a rigid structure, Robin James does just the opposite.
While naturally she does take a few pages to describe the setting, the protagonist and her world, it takes very little time for us to be thrust into the case, and from there on out until the end there are virtually zero interruptions in the pace. There are no superfluous flashbacks, unnecessary segments dealing with interpersonal relationships, or characters which have nothing to do with the story; anything and everything is directed towards the progression of the plot.
As a result, we have a novel which, I believe, truly adheres to the definition of a “thriller”, prompting you to constantly turn one page after the next because the chain of events simply doesn’t have any breaks in the action. There is always something prominent to focus our attention on, and I would say this is legitimately the type of book you can finish without even realizing.
Naturally, a good pace and structure can only take a novel so far; it still needs for the actual content to be worthwhile. In this regard, I thought Robin James did a fantastic job at creating a complex case with plenty of moving parts and questions for us to answer, and as far as I could tell, when I became privy to the final revelations all the pieces fit neatly together.
The Thrill of Prosecution
With all I said in the previous segment, It’s quite easy to think this is the kind of legal thriller with plenty of movement and physical action, but on the contrary, much of it takes place in the courtroom, and it’s where all the interesting elements are concentrated. I mentioned earlier there were two reasons for which Time of Justice caught my eye, and the second one is the author’s personal experience with the profession, spanning over a decade.
In my opinion, it’s quite necessary to have detailed knowledge of the law and all of its finer inner workings before writing a novel in which it takes the centre stage. While I don’t doubt for a second there are plenty of rogue scholars capable of conducting profound research, I still believe they cannot be better-placed than someone who actually spent a significant amount of time working in the field.
Robin James‘ experience shines through on plenty of occasions where she concisely explains the various procedures and protocols followed by the characters during the courtroom proceedings. She doesn’t bombard us with paragraphs of knowledge, but rather, provides clarifications where necessary for the layman.
This greatly helped me understand the significance of various developments which happened along the way, and needless to say, it’s absolutely necessary for the enjoyment of a novel in this genre. I never had any trouble understand what was happening or why, and Mara Brent’s battle of wits against both seen and unseen enemies was as riveting as any action scene could be.
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Speaking of Mara’s battle against the antagonists, on top of being exceptionally engaging in terms of how evidence is revealed and new obstacles are brought into play, it also allows the author’s love for her profession to shine through. I had the distinct impression Robin James has a very real and burning passion for The Law (so-to-speak), one she managed to communicate clearly through her sharp and intelligent prose.
The Final Verdict
Time of Justice by Robin James is an outstanding legal thriller which does away with any fluff, focusing on the complex case at hand and all the hidden twists it has waiting for the reader. The author’s experience as a supervising attorney comes into play more than once, and her approach to the legislative aspect of the novel is about as perfectly-balanced as can be.
If you’re looking for solid courtroom drama with the kind of mystery capable of keeping you hooked from start to finish, then this is definitely a book I recommend you check out.
Robin James is an American attorney, author and former law professor who spent over a decade as a supervising attorney for a legal clinic in Michigan. She has authored the Class Leary and the Mara Brent Legal Thriller series, which include bestselling novels such as Time of Justice, Hand of Justice, Burden of Truth, Silent Witness and Mercy Kill.