A 2011 Michigan Notable Book
This is an accomplished first novel, with dialogue that rings true and a twisting and turning plot that finishes with some stunning hairpin curves. A must for legal-thriller fans. — Booklist
To Account for Murder demands our attention as much as any great work of literature. It offers a complicated, compelling, and honest vision of the past while maintaining a tight pace and proffering memorable characters. Equal parts thriller and historical novel, it’s a page-turner with an eye for the nuances of all that makes us human. In other words, it’s a stunning debut. --New York Journal of Books
Loss haunts Charlie Cahill. He has lost his belief in the great game of the law, a game that is fixed from the beginning. He lost his father, who drowned during Prohibition smuggling whiskey across the Detroit River. He lost his left arm below the elbow to German machine-gun fire on D-Day. And he may lose the one thing that still matters to him, the woman who rescued him from his own despair.
That woman is Sarah Maynard. She has chestnut hair with a single white streak, a wicked laugh, a thirst for love,and a corrupt state senator for a husband. With a probe into corruption at the state capital about to begin, the police find the senator dead in the middle of a cornfield. Cahill is not surprised. As he says in the opening chapter, “I knew nothing about an investigation. But I knew all about the senator. After all, I’d shot him.” —Set in post-war Michigan, the book’s shattering climax takes place at Jackson State Penitentiary—“Jacktown”—the world’s largest walled prison. There, Cahill must choose between saving Sarah Maynard and his own conscience.
At one level this is simply a story out of the past about the killing of a state senator. At another level it’s about loss and its consequences. But it is also about truth, deception, and the swirling shades of gray that lie between the two. Ultimately, it is about identity and a terrible secret kept in silence across the decades.
Judge WILLIAM C. WHITBECK writes for a living. The legendary Chief Judge of the Michigan Court of Appeals—one of the country’s largest and busiest appellate courts—he still sits on that court, authoring opinions ranging from the simplest slip-and-fall cases to the murder conviction of Jack Kevorkian. During his long legal and political career, he’s been a counselor to three Michigan governors. He and his wife Stephanie live in historic downtown Lansing in a renovated 1878 home—just blocks from Michigan's Capitol, a brooding presence in his riveting first novel. As a practicing attorney and a judge, he has seen the legal system from both sides enabling him to lay that system bare.