Free of Malice, by Liz Lazarus

7 Mar
free of malice liz lazarus

Three of Five stars

I didn’t love this one as much as everyone else has, and in this case I’m going to give that some weight. It is really possible that I’m just not the audience. I did however love the ending. There was a lot of excitement and I rushed through those last pages.

But for the most part the book kind of dragged for me, and I wasn’t buying the set-up. The majority of the story is our heroine going through her story, moment by moment, to a lawyer, so that she can write a story about… well… I guess it was about how to declare self defense if you’ve shot your attacker after he’s left your house – a pretty tough case to prove when you’ve shot your attacker in the back, out on the street, as he’s running away from you (which is her hypothetical premise). Laura was attacked previously, but did not have a gun to shoot, only a can of mace. She wants to know what would happen if she had a gun and had shot her attacker.

My problem is that she is convinced her attacker is going to come back, and so she does go buy a gun and take shooting lessons. This sort of renders the whole hypothetical case of self defense to be moot… at this point if the attacker comes back and she does indeed shoot him as he’s running from her house, the prosecutor will have an open and shut case of premeditated murder if they find out what detail she’s gone into with her lawyer previously. And I don’t understand why she even picked this lawyer, much less stayed with him, since he reminded her so much of her attacker and she eventually becomes convinced they are one and the same.

There are a lot of laws brought up in the book, but people should be aware they apply to Georgia, and not necessarily any other state. Gun and self-defense laws can vary widely, so don’t take this book as a self defense bible (for when your attacker is running away from you, especially).

That all said, this is not a bad book, and attack survivors may have quite a lot to get out of this book. They may relate much more to Laura than I did. I was also afraid this book was preaching for everyone to go get a gun to protect themselves, but by the end of the book at least they show good reasons why vigilantism is not a great idea.

One major spoiler here, don’t read it if you don’t want to know the ending: [Laura does eventually end up shooting her attacker in a clear-cut case of self defense, and she is then let off the hook completely. This is somewhat of a letdown after we’ve just gone through all the horrible things that can happen to you if you decide to shoot your attacker… in the end nothing happens to her at all.]

So I would not dissuade anyone from reading this. I would in fact recommend it to anyone who has been the victim of an attack. And I think for anyone who doesn’t know much about the law (or only what they’ve gleaned from Law & Order) this will give you a lot more to think about. Not much of this was news to me, so that’s why it dragged for me personally. I can’t give it less than 3 stars, but to grade my own enjoyment I can’t give it more than 3 stars either.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Liz Lazarus for letting me read an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

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