Everything changes when a dam is taken out near her home town of Cedar Grove and Sarah’s grave is found in a shallow grave. It had been in a area covered with flood water from the dam that was completed shortly after her disappearance.
Tracy has been haunted by Sarah’s death. Tracy has felt guilty. As the older sister she felt responsible for not ensuring that Sarah got home that rainy night after the competition.
Sarah’s disappearance and death devastated Tracy’s family. Finding out what happened has become her obsession.
With new evidence available from the analysis of Sarah’s remains that supports her concerns over the trial evidence. Tracy looks for a lawyer who would be willing to challenge the conviction of House.
It is ironic that within 3 months I have now read 2 books in which police detectives work to challenge the convictions of murders with which they were involved 20 years after the murders. In None So Blind by Barbara Fradkin, one of the 2015 finalists for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel, it was Ottawa Police Inspector, Michael Green who was shaken when the evidence called into question the conviction.
Dan O’Leary, who had grown up with Tracy, has returned to Cedar Grove after the breakup of his marriage in Boston and his burnout at a big law firm. He now has a modest general practice with an emphasis on criminal law. (It sounds like my practice except I do more family law.)
Dan is interested in helping Tracy and they travel to the prison in Walla Walla to see House. The creepy House, seeing his best chance at release is with them, agrees to be represented by Dan on a post-conviction relief application.
Back in Cedar Grove the prosecutor and police chief who worked together to convict House are very uneasy about the application. In a heavy handed manner they try to persuade Tracy to abandon the her pursuit of what happened 20 years ago.
A hearing in which witnesses from the original trial is held back in Cedar Grove. As in Dugoni’s book, Murder One, the courtroom action is the best part of the book.
Dan is a skilfull litigator and he has been well supplied with information from Tracy’s investigation.
I liked the book a great deal until I reached the ending which was way too Hollywood for me. It did not need that style of ending. In America it appears hard for even a courtroom drama not to have a Hollywood thriller ending. To say more would be a spoiler
My Sister’s Grave was the 3rd and final book on this shortlist for the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. My next post will discuss the 3 books and set out which book I think should win the Award which will be presented at the end of this week.
****Dugoni, Robert - (2013) - Murder One and Email Exchange with Dugoni on Legal Ethics; (2014) - The Jury Master