The Final Case Book Review

From the author of Snow Falling on Cedars (PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Winners, 1995) comes a disturbing legal drama. In this fictionalized account, a thirteen-year-old Ethiopian girl adopted by a conservative, white fundamentalist Christian couple is found dead of hypothermia a few feet from the back door of her home in Seattle. Her adoptive parents are put on trial for murder. An octogenarian criminal attorney defends the mother, Betsy Harvey. His son narrates the story as he drives his father to and from court.

In 2013, a jury found Carri and Larry Williams guilty on almost all the charges brought against them: manslaughter of Hana, and for Carri, homicide by abuse. They were also convicted of  first-degree assault of a child for abusing her younger brother, Immanuel, both of whom were adopted from Ethiopia. Larry was sentenced to almost 28 years and Carri to just under 37.

Many readers wrote glowing reviews of The Final Case, but mine will not be one of those. I applaud the concept of the book; it is a horrifying, thought-provoking story of an innocent child being disciplined to death by overzealous, cruel parents. David Guterson is a talented storyteller and painted vivid word pictures, but this was a very frustrating read. Much of the book had no bearing on its premise. Why did it matter how the narrator met his wife, etc.? He went down very long, albeit funny, trails of nothing to do with anything. It reminded me of Cliff Clavin on Cheers who liked to hear himself talk.

I just didn’t like the writing. There would be a modicum of plot followed by pages of word explosions. I nearly shut the book because of the overdose of adjectives and the ridiculously long sentences, one of which was 243 words long! Not for me. 2 stars.

Published Date: January 2022
Genre: Legal thriller

** Thanks toNetGalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book. The opinions are my own.

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