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Book review: <i>Crime of Privilege</i> by Walter Walker

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the cover of the book

I've never read any Walter Walker before, but I've decided I want to read more. His writing style is so engaging that I was hooked from the first few pages, and the storyline manages to be action packed, even when all the crime in the story is officially cold.

The story

In 1996, young George Becket attends a party in Palm Beach. His college roommate Paul McFetridge invited him, and he doesn't know anybody there in his own right. He's a bit overwhelmed, the house belongs to a democratic senator and most of the company is well out of George's league. He ends up standing next to a beautiful girl, chatting to her while they drink. A lot. That's when the trouble starts.

Two of Senator Gregory's nephews are that trouble, and George follows along. He follows right up to the point that the two boys get the beautiful drunk girl's clothes off, and then he tries to stop it, tries to help her. But his trying isn't hard enough, and he feels bad about it for a long time.

Flash forward to Cape Cod, 2008. George Becket is an assistant district attorney, a job that was bestowed on him by a grateful Gregory family for keeping quiet about their Palm Beach scandal. George just prosecutes DUIs, relegated to a basement room with Barbara Belbonnet, a woman short on career choices and big on family behind her. His boss, Mitch White, is also indebted to the Gregorys. And that's how life is for George. A meaningless job, an ex wife, and the guilt of knowing he should have done more to help that poor girl in Palm Beach.

One night, when George is minding his own business at his local, he's approached by Bill Telford, a local man he's never met. Nine years ago, Bill's daughter was found murdered, and Bill believes the Gregorys were involved in a cover up that goes as far as the district attorney. Bill begs George to have a look at the case, just to see if he can get somewhere.

This is an opportunity for George to right past wrongs, maybe. But there are big forces at work, and in an investigation spanning years and continents, George can't help but feel like there's always someone pulling the strings...

The style

I was so into this book that I actually got a bit sad this morning when I realised that I couldn't keep reading it because, you know, I'd finished it already. Not that it's short, it's pretty meaty, and covers a lot of time, with a lot of twists. I think there were probably two things that I found discussion worthy, aside from the obviously gripping storyline:

Crime of Privilege is written in the first person limited, from George's point of view. And George is a fantastic character. He's aware of his flaws, he has a dry sense of humour in describing actions and thought processes to the reader. Some of his self commentary made me snicker out loud a little, just for being so self deprecatingly human. Not that he's really down on himself, and not that the book is in any way a comedy, but Walker clearly has a flair for observation about people, and this makes George super relate-able and worthy of the odd chuckle. He's basically how a character should be written, period.

I was pretty much hooked after the first few pages, which describe the senator's party in Palm Beach where young George witnesses a rape. The scene setting was very Great Gatsby at that party, and I'm a massive sucker for anything that looks like something by F Scott so that was a bonus. And then the thing that got me, really got me stuck into the reading, was Walker's considered and incredibly realistic feeling narrative by George about the sexual assault. George was drunk, and watching, and feeling like he should be doing something but wasn't, or couldn't. And then when he did, was it enough? And then because it wasn't enough, afterwards, the way he kept thinking back about it to justify his lack of behaviour to himself. It was so well considered, because there's a lot of talk about the “grey areas” when it comes to consent and sex and drunken-ness, and I felt like they were covered in a full and incredibly empathetic way, and I came away from those first few chapters thinking that this was a writer who knew what he was doing. And that feeling didn't change.

Who is this book for?

So many people are into this genre, guys. And if you like crime fiction, this is a must.

If you like this book, you would also like...

You'll want to be discerning, I don't think many Americans are capable of this kind of crime fiction. My last review was a Kurt Wallander, and he's a good Swedish crime writer. Don't go for something average, you'll disappoint yourself.

In short

Title: Crime Of Privilege
Author: Walter Walker
Publisher: Ballantine Books
ISBN: 978-0-345-54154-3
Year published: 2013
Pages: 432
Genre(s): Crime Fiction
Review Type: