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The Hamilton Case    by Michelle de Kretser order for
Hamilton Case
by Michelle de Kretser
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

The Hamilton Case is one of the most interesting books that I have read in quite some time. The protagonist is Sam Obeysekere, a lawyer living in London but born and raised in the island nation of Ceylon in the early 1900s (Ceylon is now known as Sri Lanka). British culture enveloped Sam's homeland during his youth and Sam is arguably more English than the English themselves.

Sam, educated at Oxford, sets his sights on a legal career after it becomes apparent that he must make his own way in life. His father, whose greatest passion is to give to others, has squandered away Sam's inheritance along with the remainder of the family's fortune. Sam's mother Maud is a tempestuous character, seductive and volatile in nature. She likes to throw and break things when she gets mad at Sam's father, which is often. Maud, exiled to the family's remaining jungle estate, painstakingly reminds Sam of their family heritage and the truths of their homeland. Sam is also closely bonded to his sister Claudia, a young woman of a distant and mysterious nature. Sam tries to protect Claudia from her various challenges in life and attempts to maintain contact with her while living in London.

Sam is busily building a career in London as a prosecutor, and developing an admirable and respected reputation in London's legal circles for himself, when he comes upon the 'Hamilton case' over drinks at a club with a colleague. The case, involving the scandalous murder of a tea plantation owner, has shaken up the upper echelon of London society. The question is whodunit, and Sam eagerly gets involved. He is convinced that he has the key to unlock this puzzle and that his position in London society will protect him from any repercussions following the discovery of the culprit. Essentially, Sam is a likeable but imperfect character, who stumbles upon a highly charged legal case that changes his life in ways he never envisioned.

The Hamilton Case is beautifully written and it is captivating. The third person perspective provides an intimate look at Sam, Sam's parents and sister, other family members, friends and foes. There is ample description of Sam's youth in Ceylon and the island's culture, nature and terrain, which was quite fascinating. I found myself quickly drawn into the story and always wanting to read just one more page before I had to force myself to put the book down to handle life's daily chores.

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