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Book review: 'The Competition' by Marcia Clark (w/ event details)

Marcia Clark's 'The Competition' is out today from Mulholland Books.
Marcia Clark's 'The Competition' is out today from Mulholland Books.
www.marciaclarkbooks.com

Marcia Clark's 'The Competition'

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This evening, July 8, Hartford Books Examiner will be in conversation with Marcia Clark at the Darien Library to celebrate the publication of her fourth Rachel Knight novel, The Competition (Mulholland Books, $26.00). This event is free and open to the public. View details here: http://www.darienlibrary.org/events/meet-author/marcia-clark-conversation-john-valeri

Ms. Clark also has local events scheduled at Burgundy Books, the Fairfield Antique & Design Center, and Bank Square Books. (See details below.)

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Today, Hartford Books Examiner reviews The Competition (Mulholland Books, $26.00) by Marcia Clark.

The Competition is the author’s fourth novel to feature protagonist Rachel Knight, a prosecutor in the elite Special Trials Unit of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. Clark herself did a ten-year stint in the unit, which culminated in her leading the criminal prosecution of O.J. Simpson. Following that case and her resignation from the D.A.’s Office, she co-wrote a #1 New York Times bestselling memoir, Without a Doubt (1997). Clark made her fiction debut in 2011 with the national bestseller Guilt by Association, which was followed by Guilt by Degrees (2012) and Killer Ambition (2013). She continues to practice appellate law and serves as a legal analyst and expert commentator for television and radio.

As the book opens, a San Fernando Valley high school becomes the hunting ground for a Columbine-like massacre that shakes a community to its absolute core. When Rachel Knight and her best gal pal, LAPD detective Bailey Keller, are called to the scene, it appears that the perpetrators have died in a mutual suicide. But as Rachel and Bailey interview witnesses to the tragic event—including traumatized students whose lives will never be the same—it becomes apparent that they’re coming up with more questions than answers. And that the real shooter, or shooters, may still be at large. (Note: A draft of the manuscript was completed prior to the Sandy Hook shooting; the text was later modified to reflect that tragedy and others—a grim reminder of the timeliness of the subject matter.)

With the clock ticking—and the knowledge that a public revelation of their growing suspicions would only further cripple an already fearful city—they decide to consult with two prominent psychologists in the hopes of profiling their shooter(s). These consultations continue throughout the book, with its myriad twists and turns, and prove as eye-opening for Clark’s characters as they might for readers: contrary to popular belief, these perpetrators have not necessarily been bullied (or bullied beyond the norm), shown predispositions to violence (or other psychopathic tendencies), or appeared reclusive (or otherwise socially inept). Rather, the media has often misinformed the public in their haste, painting partial portraits that are consistently at odds with the lesser known realities.

In addition to providing such thought-provoking commentary (which is a credit to the author’s research), Clark does an admirable job of crafting sympathetic depictions of those individuals that Rachel and Bailey must question in the course of their investigation. These include victims and their families and school officials, as well as the parents of the alleged shooter(s)—who are often vilified in real-life following such inexplicable acts of violence and yet are often victims themselves. It’s an enlightening (and empathic) endeavor, and one that illustrates the humanity that is often lost amid such horror.

This is fiction, however, and Clark provides plentiful moments of levity to temper the inherent drama. Rachel and Bailey, along with fellow bestie Toni LaCollier (and their respective romantic interests—including Lieutenant Graden Hales, who Rachel must contend with personally and professionally here), share a crackling chemistry that has grounded the series from its inception and serves as a reminder that working women can support one another without concealing those proverbial knives for future backstabbing. Their frequent get-togethers, often over food and drink (the great equalizers!), illuminate some of L.A.’s hot spots, and make for a nice tour of the city beyond its crime scenes.

With The Competition, Marcia Clark has upped the ante yet again, reaching new creative heights. Though the subject matter is both dark and disturbing, her sensitive handling of the material and the informative nature of the narrative allows the book to transcend traditional thriller fare. Pulse-pounding, poignant, and provocative, this is a story that will engage your heart and your mind. It’s also proof beyond a reasonable doubt that fiction can help us to understand reality …

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With thanks to Pamela Brown, Director of Marketing at Mulholland Books, for providing a review copy of The Competition.

The following are Marcia Clark’s upcoming Connecticut events:

Tonight (Tuesday, July 8th) – Darien Library, 7 PM – In conversation with Hartford Books Examiner. This event is free and open to the public. More information here. Location: 1441 Post Rd.

Wednesday, July 9thBurgundy Books, 7 PM – In conversation with owner Linda Williams. The cost of admission is $10, which can be applied to the purchase of a book. A reception and book signing will follow the program. Reservations are required and can be made by calling the store at 860-391-9525. Location: 1285 Boston Post Rd. in Westbrook.

Thursday, July 10th -- Fairfield Antique & Design Center, 6 to 8 PM – This is a launch party; lite bites and Spiked Seltzer will be served. Tickets are $25/person and can be purchased online; registration is free for Ladies Who Launch Platinum Members and Over 40 Females members. Copies of The Competition will be available for purchase/signing at the event. Location: 19 Willard Rd. in Norwalk.

Friday, July 11thBank Square Books – 12 to 1:30 PM – This is a luncheon event. The cost is $30 for lunch and a copy of The Competition, $10 for lunch only, and free for those who want to attend but do not want lunch or a copy of the book. Reservations are requested and can be made by calling the store at 860-536-3795. Location: 53 W. Main St. in Mystic.