Private Prosecution, Lisa Ellery

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

If, like this reader, you're a bit twitchy about "legal" crime fiction, then PRIVATE PROSECUTION could be just the book for you. As the blurb puts it:

"This is a pacy, darkly comic whodunnit with a twist - Andrew knows who did it but the clock is ticking and he has to prove it before he gets himself taken out."

Now I will admit there's something very compelling about Andrew Deacon, when you can't help but avoid the sneaking suspicion that this self-declared "spoilt-brat" shouldn't be as likeable as he is. Deacon is a fascinating case study in male entitlement, turned reluctant, conflicted good guy. I mean you can really see how he'd be miffed at being dragged into a murder investigation; disappointed that his sex life didn't pan out as he wanted; confused about why Lil when he's really attracted to Jessy; applauding his willingness to take some personal damage in pursuit of the truth; and wondering why the hell he just doesn't let sleeping dogs lie. But he's a prosecutor, and the suspect is a defence barrister and maybe there's something... ingrained.... reactionary in his endeavours?

Don't know, either way it's a hell of a ride for Deacon, who starts out not best pleased that his one night stand with the very sexy Lil Constantine didn't lead to a follow up call from her, despite him leaving his number when he snuck out of her apartment in the wee small hours of the morning. To give him points, he's genuinely horrified when it turns out a few hours later she was stabbed to death in a violent, frenzied attack.

Deacon is initially dragged in for questioning, what with him being the last known person to see her alive, and his phone number and undeniable presence in the deathbed, but he's got a rock solid alibi for the time of death, and a strong suspicion about the identity of the murderer. Not that the police agree with him (and about here it gets complicated because one of the cops investigating this murder is Jessy - the woman he'd really like a long-term relationship with), mostly because Deacon's prime suspect has a rock solid alibi as well.

Keeping things well within the legal world, that prime suspect is Lil's brother-in-law, Samuel Godfrey SC. The sort of upstanding defence barrister that Deacon (a junior prosecutor with the Western Australian DPP) could be said to be definitely biased against, but there's something about a call he overheard between Lil and "Sam" and more to the point, there's something about Godfrey that sets off alarm bells over and above those that normally sound when prosecutor and defence go to courtroom war.

Going after Godfrey turns out to be a tricky personal undertaking though, ending up with Deacon on the run from charges related to child pornography; a self-inflicted addiction to powerful painkillers after being beaten to a pulp in a car park; his beloved BMW torched; no smartphone and a series of rather spectacularly retro cars to get around in.

There is an undertone of dry, dark humour throughout PRIVATE PROSECUTION and whilst it does occasionally dip it's toes into courtroom scenes, the novel is mostly about the chase - which starts out with Deacon as prey, and then eventually, through some Herculean efforts on his behalf, and the support of family and friends, he conquers the serpent Godfrey.

PRIVATE PROSECUTION turned out to be a little gem of a novel. It's not very long, and it's a really quick, engaging read with some very unexpected laughs, and some really exciting moments, to say nothing of the ever present question. Will the hero solve the problem, slay the serpent and will the girl even want him after everything she knows he's done?


Year of Publication

Andrew Deacon is young, fit and single, a junior prosecutor at the WA DPP with a bright future and a sense of entitlement to match.

That future starts to look darker when he spends the night with an attractive stranger, Lily Constantine, and she is found murdered in her apartment the following day. Andrew believes he knows who killed Lily but there is not a shred of evidence to prove it.

This is a pacy, darkly comic whodunnit with a twist – Andrew knows who did it but the clock is ticking and he has to prove it before he gets himself taken out. 

Review Private Prosecution, Lisa Ellery
Karen Chisholm
Thursday, October 21, 2021

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