The Competition by Marcia Clark

In 2016, largely thanks to American Crime Story, I became somewhat obsessed with the OJ Simpson trial. Among the books I read on the subject was Marcia Clark’s Without a Doubt. I enjoyed it to the point that I noted similarities between it and Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller series, and as a result made a mental note to check out some of her fiction writing at a later date. So when I noticed The Competition on a library shelf, naturally it came home with me.

To start with, The Competition isn’t at all what I thought it would be. I was expecting a legal thriller full of courtroom action, but there’s none of that here. It’s entirely a police procedural, with main character DA Rachel Knight tagging along with the cops on a school shooting case.

The shooting itself is horrifically graphic. There are heads exploding into gore, to the extent that I felt the shock value was overplayed and was worried the rest of the book would be more of the same. Fortunately, after the initial body count, we’re back on safer ground. Clark’s familiarity with the legal system is clear, and helps her craft a well-plotted thriller, with reveals that come at just the right pace. Her character-work is ropier – apart from Rachel, none of the secondary characters have much in the way of personality.

The Competition is solid if not spectacular. I don’t feel compelled to read more of Clark’s fiction, and I don’t think I’ll wind up invested in the Rachel Knight series. But it’s better than I expected, and I enjoyed it while I was reading it, which ultimately is all that can be asked of a book.

[Read from 30 June-8 July 2017]

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