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The Conviction    by Robert Dugoni order for
by Robert Dugoni
Order:  USA  Can
Touchstone, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Conviction is the sixth (following Murder One) of Robert Dugoni's excellent legal thrillers starring ex-Marine/Seattle attorney David Sloane. Sloane's wife Tina was murdered in Bodily Harm, but he tried to maintain a relationship with his stepson Jake, despite Jake's biological father having claimed his son.

Now, in The Conviction, Jake is in trouble. After his stepson comes before a judge (not for the first time) for public intoxication and property damage, David agrees to take responsibility for Jake (who witnessed his mother's murder) while he completes a substance abuse program and grief counseling.

When David's friend, detective Tom Molia, calls and suggests a joint camping trip (including his fourteen-year-old son T.J.), David hopes it will make a difference for Jake. It does, but in no way is it as Sloane anticipated. The boys share a room at a motel before they head out for the hills, and Jake embroils T.J. in an overnight misadventure that brings them both before a judge before their fathers even know they are missing.

Sloane and Molia learn that their sons - having inexplicably waived their rights to a trial and an attorney - have been rapidly sentenced to Fresh Start, a juvenile detention facility in the mountains. They are not permitted visits for the first month, and parents are required to pay six thousand dollars a month while their sons are in the facility!

Readers follow the boys' gruelling experiences at the camp as well as their desperate fathers' attempts (legally and otherwise) to extricate them. And it's brutal (reminiscent in some ways of Louis Sachar's Holes). Bullying is rampant and permitted by the guards, whose use of force is criminal. They try, but fail, to break Jake, and a crazed inmate, Big Baby, goes after T.J..

Soon Sloane and Molia learn that there's been an apparent epidemic of teen crime in Truluck, California, that Judge Boykin sends a steady stream of young offenders to Fresh Start, and that there's something very rotten in the courthouse and the juvenile facility. Tension builds to violent confrontations in the mountains and at Fresh Start before those involved see better days ahead of them.

The Conviction, a gripping read and the best in the series to date, addresses private policing, for-profit juvenile boot camps, drugs, money laundering, and murder. Don't miss this one - or the previous David Sloane books; they're all worth your time.

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