Title: Almost Mortal
Author: Chris Leibig
Genre: Legal thriller/magical realism/paranormal
Reading Time: 4hrs 6mins
Date Finished: March 23, 2021
Content Warnings: Murder, potential alcoholism, sex work, psychological manipulation, shooting, war
What Worked For Me: Written by a lawyer; the mystery premise was intriguing
What Didn’t Work For Me: Characters; story execution; the portrayal of women; writing
This is the first book I was asked to review through Bookstagram. The author’s publicist reached out and offered to send me the first book and an ARC of the second book in exchange for an honest review.
Reading the premise of the book intrigued me enough that I said yes. The story focuses on Sam Young, a lawyer who gets hired by a nun because she thinks she knows the identity of a serial killer the police are looking for. As he investigates, Sam gets pulled into the strange diary of the supposed killer and has to figure out if what he’s reading is real or completely made up. Along the way, he discovers that the minor psychic abilities he’s always had might not be so minor after all.
I was incredibly drawn in by the premise and I liked the idea of reading a legal thriller written by a lawyer. Leibig has an impressive career with several high-profile cases and teaching positions at many law schools. Who better to write a legal thriller than him?
Unfortunately, my expectations for this book fell very short of reality. I found myself confused quite early in the book, unable to figure out what exactly the plot of the story is. Having watched a lot of fictional and true crime shows over the years, I have a pretty decent understanding of the legal system and the investigative process. The things that confused me really shouldn’t have, and I found myself bored with things that usually intrigue me greatly.
The story had a great deal of potential in my opinion, but the execution didn’t work for me. I struggled to connect with the main character, Sam, who, for all intents and purposes, was lowkey a stereotypical alcoholic. He spent the majority of his downtime drinking and thinking about drinking. In general, I’m not a fan of the drunk investigator trope because it feels so generic and cheap. I wasn’t particularly thrilled at what I felt was mansplaining the legal process and his job. As someone who has read many, many mysteries and thrillers since I was a child, I don’t need someone to tell me why DNA is important.
I also wasn’t a fan of the way women were perceived and portrayed within the story. Sam objectifies each woman he sees, particularly the nun who hires him. He spends a great deal of time talking about how attractive she is and how she’s too attractive to be a nun. It didn’t matter which woman he met - client, co-worker, or superior - he had to lay out their appearance for reasons entirely unrelated to their character or story. It felt like something that would appear on the Men Write Women Twitter page and I did not enjoy that.
My main problem was a lot of things that didn’t make sense to me. Characters were hard to keep track of and they all felt really one-dimensional and similar. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief around Sam’s psychic abilities, how it worked, and the paranormal stuff that started unfolding as the story progress. In fact, I don’t recall a single line explaining what exactly his psychic abilities entailed and why that was important to his character.
Two of the Catholic characters were so obviously not Catholic, and no one would think that a nun and priest would behave as they did. What I thought the main focus of the story would be ended up being an incredibly minor plot point. And the sex scenes were, as expected, male-focused. Had the writing and execution been better, I think I would have enjoyed the book more.
While I don’t recommend this book, it would appear that my opinions are among the very tiny minority online. This book has fairly good reviews on Goodreads and I would say that doing your research is key to figuring out if you would like it. It didn’t work for me, but that’s not to say that it wouldn’t work for other people.
Thank you to Sabrina Dax and Chris Leibig for my free copy of this book.