Blood on Their Hands, in its portrayal of police brutality and racial injustice, is unlike other legal thrillers for its perfect timing as police mistreatment of blacks has wreaked havoc on the country. In addition, it is unique in its introduction of a controversial legal conundrum.
But that issue – whether an attorney who witnesses a police beating may defend the victim – is secondary to the novel's depiction of racial animosity. Though race bigotry has always existed in our country, events over a period of just a few weeks in spring/summer 2020 reached a level not seen since the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s.
Police brutality toward blacks is the primary problem encountered in Blood on Their Hands by both the legal system and the book's characters in the racial attitudes they harbor. The novel plumbs the depths of these bigoted feelings, echoing via dramatization the poignant lyrics in the song You've Got to Be Carefully Taught in Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1949 hit Broadway musical South Pacific.
Midwest Book Review had this observation: "Astute, thought-provoking, involving, and growth-oriented, Blood on Their Hands excels in satisfying twists and turns designed to keep readers engaged on many levels, up to its satisfying conclusion."
Hiram Garbuncle is a veteran criminal defense attorney—as well as a racist, miserly alcoholic. His life revolves around hoarding money, following sports, pursuing sex, drinking—and the prideful practice of law.
Alec Monceau is a black man working in suburban West Palm Beach, Florida, to support his daughter's family in Trinidad. In 2008, the Obama bumper sticker on his car provokes police into making a traffic stop, whereupon they brutally beat the innocent Alec.
Garbuncle is averse to defending a black man, but is so confident of getting the charge of resisting arrest with violence dismissed that he is negligent in the jury selection, and a mistrial results. After discovering incriminating evidence on the two cops, the attorney finds himself and his client in imminent danger, and he fights to avoid assassination pending a new trial.
Blood on Their Hands borrows themes from the movies Gran Torino and My Cousin Vinnie. It is a tale replete with both pathos and humor. Steeped in suspense, action, intrigue, violent episodes and yes, a bit of titillating sex, the story is leavened by a tragic love affair. Humorous scenes are abundant, providing comic relief. Perhaps above all, Blood is a story of redemption.