It looks like Australia finally has its own rival to John Grisham, in the form of former Melbourne law clerk Alex Hammond.
The South African-born law/arts double degree holder has just published Blood Witness, a legal thriller set in the Victorian capital. This appears to be the start of a brand new series featuring defence lawyer Will Harris.
Uncommon: The legal thriller sub-genre in Australia, which is getting a fresh breath of life from Alex Hammond in his powerful debut Blood Witness
The legal thriller sub-genre may be common overseas, most notably in the United States with big names like John Grisham and Mark Gimenez but has yet to make a significant mark among Australian writers. Hence it looks like Hammond has got this angle covered well with his first offering. The West Australian's William Yeoman dubbed Blood Witness as a "slick, fast-paced legal thriller set in Melbourne but with a genuine international flavour and with enough twists to surprise even the most avid fans of the genre". In his exclusive with Yeoman, Hammond - now digital media manager at RMIT University - says that narratives are important when it comes to building a strong case in a court of law.
The story revolves around defence lawyer and amateur boxer Will Harris, who takes up a high-profile case defending a paedophile against murder charges after keeping a low profile for the past two years following his fiance's tragic death. To complicate matters, his late fiance's sister is implicated in a complicated drug possession case involving the Yugoslavian mob. Hammond's fluid narrative explores various social and ethical issues such as underage clubbing and the right to a good defence attorney no matter who you are or what you have done. Harris's client Martin Kier is a reprehensible character, but to set him up for a murder he did not commit is even worse. The invocation of an obscure case law to permit a terminally-ill bedridden psychic to take the witness stand is also ingenious.
All in all, Blood Witness marks a powerful debut for Hammond. It is dark and suspenseful while also set in the Australian context, reflecting this nation's multicultural fabric. It is truly giving a breath of fresh air to an otherwise stuffy sub-genre.