Book Summary: The Guilty Die Twice by Don Hartshorn
Ten years ago, a capital murder case in the heart of Texas split the Lynch family in two. Now, estranged lawyer brothers Travis and Jake Lynch find themselves on opposing sides of the courtroom in a high-profile, grisly double murder case—with another accused criminal’s life on the line. Conscience-stricken Travis left his high-powered law firm to become a public defender, while bullish Jake rose to become District Attorney. The case pits brother against brother in a contest of wits, wills, and legal savvy that will shake the justice system to its core: both Lynches are convinced they’re in the right, but the truth turns out to be more complicated—and deadly—than either could have possibly imagined.
A drug deal double-cross turns lethal, leaving two corpses and one victim paralyzed for life. The victim never saw the gunman, but he knows one name: Sam Park. Travis defended Sam’s brother years before, and his heart won’t let him turn down the case, even knowing it’ll bring him face-to-face with Jake after ten years of cold silence. Jake, meanwhile, runs afoul of the Austin political machine and needs a high-profile conviction to win a tough upcoming election. And Sam, the star witness and prime suspect, won’t talk—not to Travis, and certainly not to the high-and-mighty DA—and time is running out.
Can these feuding brothers put aside a decade of enmity in the name of true justice? Or will the truth of what really happened that bloody night go to the grave with Sam Park?
Book Review: The Guilty Die Twice by Don Hartshorn
The Guilty Die Twice by Don Hartshorn is as much a nuanced family drama and social inquisition as it is a murder/courtroom/legal thriller. If you can get past a few contrived plot points, and engage with the characters, whose reliability or unreliability is a puzzle to piece together, you will be satisfied with this warm yet dark story of a community and family unhinged by a violent crime.
We follow two masterly-crafted characters — lawyer brothers, Travis and Jake Lynch. The story follows two timelines; the primary timeline in the current day investigation of the double murder case; and in second time line we see the brothers’ relationship breakdown by following the Sutton case ten years previously. Afterwards everything goes wrong between the two brothers and continues to escalate at a blinding pace.
Don Hartshorn is skilled at informing the reader about the law and procedure without telegraphing it. He has a talent for metaphor and imagery, rendered beautifully in the elegiac narrative. The narrative is even, polished, and intelligently observant of a community in shock, a family shattered. How these things fit into the rest of the story is gradually disclosed, and its presence is both suspenseful and revealing. Don Hartshorn’s dialogue is crisply cinematic but organic to the characters.
The book features some really great court room scenes, complex characters and portrays so many human emotions and frailties. Illicit passion, betrayal, jealousy, paternal feelings, family bonds – everything finds a place in the story. The author has also explained quite a few legal technicalities which makes it easier for the reader to understand some of the complexities of the trial.
The Guilty Die Twice by Don Hartshorn was very much an atmospheric and character-driven slow burn, where author’s ruminations on the deeply complex relationships formed in the midst of a murder trial. I would recommend the book to lovers of legal thrillers, murder mysteries, psychological thrillers.