Perilous Judgment (Dennis Ricci) – Review

3 stars


Publisher’s Description
Federal judge Edward Lamport is no stranger to controversy and danger. Nine months into his tenure, he’s received two death threats and is under the protection of US Marshals. But when he receives a plea for help from a woman with whom he had a brief romance twenty-five years earlier, he must face a peril of a different sort, one that involves his long-lost son, Carlos.

While working for a bank in his native Mexico, Carlos discovers an international money-laundering scheme. Now he’s on the run from those who want him dead. To get the young man asylum in the United States, Lamport appeals to his highest connections in Washington, only to find puzzling dead ends at every turn. Caught between law and love, he’s forced to take the matter into his own hands. With only his faith in God to guide him, how far is he willing to venture into the dark recesses of political corruption to save his son?


 Edward’s mind swirled with the potential complications and implications of what Alana was asking of him.  He would have to work the system as a private citizen, not in his official role.  Personal relationships were his only leverage.  If he was going to help, then Carlos should know the truth about his father.  Maybe he already did.
“Does Carlos know about me?”
“To him, Guillermo is his father.”
Her father and husband were dead.  And she hadn’t told Carlos who is real father was.  Why?
“If I help, Carlos should  know who I am.”
Alana lowered her gaze.  “I’m not ready to tell him.”
“There won’t be a better time than now.”
Streaks ran down Alana’s cheeks.  “I understand.  Will you help him, Eduardo?”
Enough with the conditions, Lamport.
He’d been handed an opportunity to atone for his youthful cowardice.  A chance to reach back in time and do now what he should have done then.
Of course he would help.
“I’ll get started on my end.  Call me as soon as you hear from him.”  A new, stronger wave of emotion swelled and threatened to burst.  He drew a deep breath and held himself together.  “Alana, he needs to know the truth before this goes much further.”
“Sí, Eduardo.  Sí.”
The truth.
Now it was his turn.
Think of what it will do to Jacqui.
Was one life more important than another?  Yes, Jacqui was his most important human relationship.  Her needs were primary.  In all things.
Yet he’d been handed an improbable gift, a second chance to know the son he’d forsaken.
This was no coincidence.


My review
Dennis Ricci’s debut novel is a political thriller with some high personal stakes for a number of its characters; particularly federal judge, Edward Lamport, and those closest to him.  It kept up a good pace and was well plotted, but in my opinion, the writing wasn’t quite its equal.  In fact, I initially put this aside after reading the first few chapters because the character interactions (particularly between Edward Lamport and his wife) felt wooden and rehearsed.  Had it not been a title I agreed to review, I might not have picked it up again, but in the end I found it easy enough to become engaged in the story, even if some aspects of the writing were less satisfying.

At the opening of the novel we learn that Judge Lamport is required to rule on the constitutionality of a proposition recently passed by the State of California.  It is a controversial policy due to the likely impact it will have on the number of illegal Mexican immigrants currently residing in California, and presents something of a dilemma for Judge Lamport:  While he believes the proposition is bad policy, he cannot find any basis to rule that it is unconstitutional.

In the midst of this legal and political maelstrom, Edward receives a message from Alana Walsh Alvarez, the Mexican woman he was in love with twenty-five years ago, before they were forcefully separated.  The son he has never met is running for his life after discovering his employer, Bancomex, is laundering drug money, and Alana is appealing to Edward for help in getting him asylum in California.  But his help will come at a cost:  His wife, Jacqui, doesn’t know anything about the child he fathered with Alana, and his son, Carlos, believes he is the son of the man his mother was forced to marry after being forbidden from seeing Edward.

Edward’s decision to help Carlos and Alana seek asylum in the US creates tension within his childless marriage, quite aside from the physical and legal difficulties he encounters at every turn.  It all made for a compelling plot, but I found myself annoyed by the way in which the author frequently used the point-of-view character’s thoughts to explain the subtext in a conversation, or to make sure the reader understood the significance of what was happening.  For example, when Alana first contacts Edward at the beginning of the novel, he comments on the picture she sent him:

“I’m surprised your father let you keep that picture.”
“I hid it where he could never find it.”
It meant that much to her.

For me, plonking the subtext right into the open like that, even if it is only in the character’s mind, completely deflates that delicious tension that comes from the things left unsaid.  The point-of-view character’s thoughts also tended to take the place of action beats in passages of dialogue, or the gestures or sensations that would have shown the character’s emotional state in a more engaging way for the reader.  Instead, I felt like I was being told, albeit in a round-about way.

My initial impression that some of the character interactions felt wooden or rehearsed was not entirely off base either, but it was not as prevalent as I had initially feared.  I found that it primarily surfaced in the scenes dealing with interpersonal relationships.  These may sound like small things, but they made the difference between an okay read and a great read for me.  Still, if you’re more concerned with the plot than the writing, you may well find this a very satisfying read.

I received a complimentary copy of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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Release date:  17 May 2016
Pages:  496
Publisher:  Waterfall Press
Author’s website:

About Fiction Aficionado

Homeschooling mum, word lover, reader extraordinaire, and follower of Christ
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