Sunday, October 22, 2023

Book Review: "Saving Emma" by Allen Eskens

Allen Eskens is a tremendously talented writer who should be a household name. His books, including the amazing The Life We Bury, are a great blend of crime novel, contemporary fiction, and occasionally, legal thriller. While his newest book, Saving Emma, isn't my favorite of his, it's still a well-written and gripping story.

Boady Sanden is a former attorney who is now a law professor that works for The Innocence Project in Minnesota. When a woman comes to Boady asking him to look into the murder conviction of her brother, he feels like there's not much he can do. Elijah Matthews has been a patient in a mental institution for the last four years, since he was accused of murdering the pastor of a megachurch. Elijah believes he is a prophet, sent to do work given to him by God.

But as he digs into Elijah's file, he learns that he was originally defended by Ben Pruitt, Boady's former colleague and best friend, who was killed in Boady's study four years earlier. Ben's life was unraveling in the middle of Elijah's trial, which makes Boady wonder whether Elijah received the vigorous defense he deserved. The more he looks into the case, he finds Elijah both infuriating and sympathetic, but he isn't sure if he actually is a murderer.

At the same time, Ben's daughter Emma, who has lived with Boady and his wife since Ben was killed, has become sullen and withdrawn since she turned 14 years old. Emma makes a decision to trust someone who doesn't have her best interests in mind, and she turns against her surrogate parents. This devastates both Boady and his wife, although he needs to examine the way he has treated Emma to see if he's at all to blame for her decisions.

Can they get Emma to return home before it's too late? What is the truth behind the murder that Elijah is accused of, and how complicated is the web Boady will step in as he tries to find who is responsible?

I really enjoy Eskens' storytelling ability, but I struggled a bit with this book. I didn't find any of the characters particularly appealing, and there's a lot of scripture quoted in the story, which isn't something I'm familiar with. There really aren't many twists in this story, but it's still a very quick read.

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