Trell Taylor was just a baby when her father was convicted of murder, but she’s always known he’s innocent. And now she wants to prove it. Not everyone wants to see justice served, however, and Trell’s investigation soon attracts unwanted attention. With so much at stake, she’ll stop for nothing but the truth – if only she can find the answers she needs in time.
I received this proof copy for an open and honest review.
Dick Lehr is a former reporter for the Boston Globe who, working as part of the Spotlight team, helped to crack a real life case that inspired this debut YA novel. In the summer of 1988, a 12-year-old girl, named Darlene Tiffany Moore, was killed by a stray bullet as she sat atop a mailbox talking to friends. A man named Shawn Drumgold was convicted and jailed for her murder, serving 14 years in a prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Nothing But The Truth tells his story.
The plot centers around our protagonist, Trell, who enlists the help of a news reporter to uncover the truth that she has always known: her father’s innocence. Together they examine old witness statements and begin to notice pieces of a puzzle that don’t fit. As the pair work to build a case, it becomes clear that not everyone is on their side – there are secrets that need to remain hidden, whatever the cost.
Being a former reporter, I felt that Lehr’s writing style was quite factual and stilted. I knew that Trell’s father was innocent. I knew he would probably be set free. So the in between, for me, was rather irrelevant. I found myself skim reading sections to get to the ‘happy ending’, not really caring if I found out the whos and whys.
Although I didn’t love this book, finding out that the story is based on real events has made me appreciate it that little bit more. Dick Lehr has succeeded in highlighting unforgivable flaws in the American legal system that ultimately ruin lives. In a similar vein to ‘The Hate You Give’, Lehr has put the spotlight on a corrupt police force who we, as a society, have lost all trust in. Find a witness; close the case. Any witness will do, even if it means bending the truth.
Police – you’re supposed to trust them. They make you safe. But it’s like Juanda and the others, they’ve seen too much. Seen police take Romero Taylor and arrest him for something he didn’t do. Seen police pressure kids into lying so they can win a trial and put the wrong person in prison. So they’re afraid, a fear that turns everything on its head. Instead of trusting police, there’s mistrust. Instead of feeling safe, there’s fear. It’s ironic when you think about it.