Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Hidden Man by David Ellis

David Ellis has been a busy man lately. On top of working as a novelist, writing very well-received novels such as Eye of the Beholder or Line of Vision (which won the Edgar Award in 2002 for Best First Novel by an American Author), he was the prosecutor in the impeachment trial of Rod Blagojevich. However, in the ensuing clam after that high-profile case, Ellis has returned to the book world, with the release of his sixth novel, The Hidden Man.

The Hidden Man introduces Jason Kolarich, the protagonist of a new series by Ellis. Kolarich is recovering from the loss of his daughter and wife, and is letting his downward spiral take his career along with him. However, a mysterious man who goes by the name of Smith hires him to defend Kolarich’s childhood best friend, Sammy Cutler, who is on trial for the murder of the man that raped and murdered Sammy’s baby sister. However, the case evolves into far more than the defense of the murder of a pedophilic killer.

With everything about the paying of Sammy’s case left in the dark, Kolarich begins to wonder about the legality of everything involved, and a number of shady connections make things seem far from right. With the trial date flying closer and closer, Kolarich must deal with the case, his feelings about his lost family, and a slowly appearing threat to his own life.

Ellis, from the beginning, creates a well-fleshed-out character, one who is fallible but tries hard. Combing elements of the legal thriller with straight-out mystery, the book is incredibly fast-paced. Every single aspect of the story is well-detailed, with Ellis providing all of the clues necessary to put it together well before his character figures them out, yet placing them in such a way that it only makes sense after the characters point it out. Ellis’ knowledge of the court-scene is also evident, as he mixes in legal-dialogue without leaving the reader behind, offering succinct explanations that make things far less confusing.

The character of Jason Kolarich is excellent for the series Ellis plans to write. He is a very human protagonist, one of the best created that I have come across in ages. His story is far more than just what case he is working on, which gives him staying power, and makes you care about more than just the solution to the crime. He is quick-witted and very intelligent, which makes things interesting, as you race him to find solutions.

The story is beautifully told, in a writing style that works perfectly. In clear, solid prose, Ellis creates a legal thriller to win over even this reviewer, who is far from a fan of the genre in general. When it comes to new mystery novels, or even mystery novels to come out in the past five years, there is none better than The Hidden Man. It is near impossible to do a better job than David Ellis.


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