Review of The Case Against Owen Williams by Allan Donaldson
Thank you LibraryThing for providing me a copy of this book! The reason why I requested this one through Early Reviewers? several things. The plot looked interesting and it’s been quite a while since I’ve read a murder mystery with a court case all in one. I thought this was rather interesting as although it took place during World War II, it wasn’t even near a battlefield, or a gunfight. This one was in a setting far away from the fighting.
Donaldson’s new novel is a literary mystery set in the fictional town of Wakefield, New Brunswick, against the backdrop of the Second World War. Following a night at The Silver Dollar dance hall, a teenage girl turns up dead in a gravel pit. The last person reported to have seen her is Owen Williams, an introverted soldier stationed with the local garrison of “Zombies”-conscripted men unwilling to serve overseas. When Lieutenant Bernard Dorkin, a young lawyer from Saint John, volunteers to defend Williams, whom he believes is innocent, he finds himself up against a theatrical local favourite leading the prosecution and a public mostly hell-bent on a foregone conclusion. The Case Against Owen Williams explores the potential for wrongful conviction and the gaps in the justice system that allow it to flourish. (From Amazon.ca)
Well, the murder mystery aspect of the story was interesting. I’d have to say I didn’t care too much for the writing style. The story did take a while to get going and for a good part of the book it was extremely repetitive. I’m sure the goal was to attempt to establish how the crime could have been committed. There were several possible scenarios. However it was being repeated at least three times and I soon started wondering if any plot advancement was going to take place. It was frustrating to read and made the plot slow to a crawl.
The possible list of suspects were interesting, albeit small as the setting does take place a in a rather small town. I did like how word does spread fast in towns such as these, and gossip remains rampant. It’s typical of a small town, and since Dorkin is an outsider, he sticks out like a sore thumb and citizens are reluctant to talk to him. I like Dorkin though. He’s very persistent and seems to be the type to strive for the greater good even though the odds are stacked against him. I considered him to be a one of those “quiet unsung heroes” and liked him for his sense of justice. Owen Williams is different and I understand how Dorkin felt when he felt irritated towards him. Owen’s a wuss. I couldn’t help but feel irritated too. He was just a spineless little twit that needed toughening up and he really didn’t help himself in regards to the court case.
I really did enjoy reading the court case part of the novel. It was interesting and grabbed my attention, it did seem like how a court case should be. I liked how Dorkin acted during court. It was a different side to him and although he was blindsided a couple of times he was still determined to prove his client innocent. However, towards the end of court, the repetitiveness of the crime came out again and it got extremely tedious to read. It came to the point where I did skip those pages as I could memorize by heart what had happened (since it was being repeated so much.)
The ending was good, a little predictable, but good nevertheless. It provided a little spark of excitement the book needed. I was not prepared for Owen’s 360 personality change and disliked him even more for it. He deserves a good punch in the face!
Despite the tedious repetitive moments, and the writing style is a little on the dry side, I’m not sure if I could say I enjoyed this book. There were moments were it was worth a read, but perhaps I’m just not used to this writing style and I felt it drag. It did take me a considerably long time to finish this book (despite it being 288 pages). I’m not sure if I could recommend this book to anyone, however, if you’re patient enough to read through the dry bits then give it a try. I would say take it, or leave it.
I give it a 4 out of 10.