Book Review – The Absence of Guilt by Mark Gimenez

The Absence of Guilt was quite a step, or rather several steps, away from my usual diet of crime and psychological thrillers. This caught my attention while I was at the local library, and I attribute the most likely cause to its title. What does the absence of guilt mean? I thought. Sounds like a very roundabout way to say not guilty. Then again, I have read my fair share of John Grisham (for which some I enjoyed thoroughly, and some I did not – The Firm being my all-time favorite, for those of you who are interested to know).

So the story starts off with the FBI (or some anti-terrorism task force) launching an assassination on a suspected terrorist in Dallas. What follows in the rest of the novel is a rather linear story of how the government, FBI, and one lawyer-turned-judge foiled a plot of blow up 100,000 (estimated) Americans at what arguably is the biggest quintessential American event of the year – the Super Bowl. Now, I don’t reside in the U.S., but I’ve seen enough U.S. programming (read: sitcoms, TV, musical comedies) and also read enough books by American authors such that I don’t doubt it.

What I found most interesting is that it taught me a lot of things I didn’t otherwise give a glancing thought to in the American legal system. For example (excuse a little digress here), the President has the executive power, that is to enforce the law. Congress has the legislative power, to make the law. Neither has both powers, because that would make him (or her or them) a dictator(s). That is where federal judges, the Queen Bee of judges, can overrule the President on albeit certain matters. However, even though the President enforces the law – he can choose NOT to enforce the law too. See how quickly the gray area starts growing here?

As a result of 9/11, the American anti-terrorism agencies have never been more on point. Doing their best to rid the country of terrorism and potential terrorism, where do they draw the line? So they lock up people who have not committed a crime, but are just a threat? If so, how much of a deemed threat is a threat, before this starts infringing on the freedom of speech and rights which is at the core of what America stands for? Do they wait for 100,000 people to die or a bomb to nearly explode before starting to make arrests? This book promises to explore the conflicts and struggles that go on, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Aside from the main plot mentioned above, there are also subplots of Judge Fenny (the federal judge – see above) and his relationship with his daughter, his romantic relationships and intertwined struggles of work and life. We also get to see through the eyes of the terrorist, as well as internal conflicts among the terrorists themselves.

Overall a solid book for its genre.

Rating 4.75/5 (good insights into the American legal system, you could learn a thing or two. Paints both sides of the story – Uncle Sam as well as the terrorist perpetrators. Linear and clear writing leading to an easy yet interesting read. Fell short of a perfect 5 not so much for being flawed, but just lacks the extra X-factor which would blow my mind)