And here’s a review of the last bus-reading book from my GenCon sojourn.

Burden of Proof by John G. Hemry

The second book in a series, this space naval courtroom drama nonetheless contains sufficient explanation of what happened in the prior book that it can be read without leaving the reader lost.

Lt. JG Paul Sinclair, legal officer on the starship USS Michaelson by dint of a 2-week elective Academy course, is experiencing some ups and downs. A close friend is being promoted off of his ship, and the too-slick officer who replaces him (who happens to be a high-ranking Admiral’s son) is not pulling his own weight. His relationship with his girlfriend’s father gets off to a rocky start. And then there’s a fatal accident onboard the ship with some questions remaining as to its cause, and Sinclair cannot in good conscience stay silent when he finds some evidence that the investigation into it missed.

There are plenty of space-naval dramas out there, David Weber’s Honor Harrington being the best-known example. There are also many realistic courtroom dramas. What’s rare is to find a book combining the two genres. In Burden of Proof, Hemry does an excellent job. Of course, there is nothing really requiring this book to be set in space; it could just as easily have been transposed to modern-day Earth in almost every respect, right down to replacing the “Greenspacers” who interfere in a military weapons test with modern-day Greenpeace protesters doing the same thing. But the SF elements are handled ably and well, and do not feel like window-dressing the way they could have in such a book.

The courtroom drama, though it only occurs relatively late in the book, is also handled well. By presenting it from the point of view of the inexperienced Sinclair, the reader gets to learn about elements of legal strategy as Sinclair learns, rather than simply being presented with them as in the average Matlock or Perry Mason episode. Although Sinclair insists that he does not want to become a lawyer, there are signs that his fascination with matters of law may lead him down that path despite himself.

Of all the books I read on the bus last weekend, I think this is the only one for which I will actively seek out other books in the series (which currently contains four books in all). I’m glad that I bothered to pick it up in the dollar store after all.

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