“The Professor” introduces Thomas Jackson McMurtrie, a longtime law professor at the University of Alabama, who, 40 years after giving up a promising career as a trial lawyer to teach law students at the request of his mentor, Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, retires to his farm an angry and bitter man, betrayed by both a Board member he mistook for a friend and his own failing health.
Meanwhile, the young family of one of Tom’s oldest friends is killed in a tragic collision with an 18-wheeler. Believing his career is over, Tom refers his friend to a brilliant, yet beleaguered, former student, Rick Drake, who begins to uncover that the truth behind the tragedy is buried in a tangled web of arson, bribery and greed.
When a key witness is murdered on the eve of trial, the young attorney, in over his head and at the end of his rope, knows he needs help…and there’s only one man who can help him.
My take: 4 looks
Usually first novels are not impressive. They are rambling, full of clichés and one-dimensional characters. This first novel from Robert Bailey is the exception to all of these. Gripping from the beginning, the story is a fast-paced legal thriller full of good guys, bad guys, and victims.
The characters bring real life onto the pages, from the moment you find out Tom has bladder cancer to the end when you discover what happens to a beloved character. There are no shiny characters here, as is often the case when you have a clear good vs. evil stance. Tom and Rick are both flawed men who are living down a past while they work to build a case, friendship, and business. The bad guys are mean to the core, and you will find yourself rooting for their comeuppance. The story became so stressful for me at times that I had to put it down for a few hours. That is the mark of a good one!! I am happy to say that I found the ending to be very satisfying.
Written by a local lawyer, this definitely has the feeling of early Grisham books, but there is something more pure in this one. Perhaps it is the local flavor that appeals so to me. Perhaps the characters are a bit more mature than Grisham’s Mitch McDeere. Whatever the case, I am pleased that Bailey just finished his first draft of the sequel, “Between Black and White.” I will definitely be one of the first in line for that one.