Free of Malice

Free of Malice

by Liz Lazarus

Overview: Loosely based on the personal experience of author Liz Lazarus, Free of Malice is a page-turner full of drama and suspense with unexpected twists.

Set in Atlanta, main character Laura Holland, a rising journalist, endures a night of terror when she is attacked in her home in the middle of the night. "I remember seeing the diamond of my engagement ring sparkle in the dim night as he thrashed his head. This was the only time I caught a glimpse of his dark face, with my fingers in his mouth. He did not seem human, but like a rabid beast attacking me in the night." Although she fights off the would-be rapist, his parting words are a threat to return. At the urging of her husband, Laura undergoes therapy to recover from the trauma, learning about a relatively new technique called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) used for PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) patients. But just when the reader feels a sense of where this book is headed—the story of a woman healing—the plot veers in a new direction.

Though Laura did not own a gun at the time, she wishes she could have shot her attacker as he fled. When she learns that her actions might not have been deemed self-defense, her journalistic instincts are kindled. Laura decides to write a hypothetical legal case, which plays out the events of that night had she shot and killed her assailant. She enlists the help of a young, black attorney, Thomas Bennett. Though Thomas proves to be clever in the rules of the criminal justice system, his striking resemblance to her attacker does not go unnoticed. As the two work together to develop the case, Laura's discomfort escalates, particularly when Thomas seems to know more about that night than he should. Could he possibly be her assailant or is Laura being hyper-vigilant? Reality and fiction soon merge as her real life drama begins to mirror the fiction she's trying to create.

Robyn R. (04/03/16): Once I began reading Liz Lazarus' Free of Malice, I knew late nights would follow—this novel is a page-turner that is nearly impossible to put down. As the plot unfolds, I could envision the setting, characters, and emotions as if I were watching a movie. The main character, Laura struggles to deal with a home invasion and its aftermath, both psychologically and the desire to protect herself so she would never feel defenseless again.

These two threads are woven throughout the plot. Psychologically, she works with a therapist to lessen her anxiety and paranoia. Practically, she purchases a gun and enrolls in classes to learn how to use it safely and legally in self-defense. Her research in the legal definition of self-defense is conducted through working with an attorney to construct a hypothetical case and explore every aspect of the "case" through trial.

Mixed amongst these plot elements, the ongoing emotional trauma affects Laura in her everyday life. She is suspicious of people. She is extremely paranoid. Recurring nightmares haunt her. She is convinced her attacker is stalking her, even though her husband and others try to assure her that this is a n atural response to her traumatic experience. For Laura, perception is her reality.<.p>

Together these elements build skillfully to a page-turning, tense, heart-thumping conclusion. No spoilers here, but it's definitely a high-paced thriller to the very end. An added bonus—the book is set in Atlanta. As a long-time resident, I could visualize the specific locations, which lent to the realism of the story. :-) The book is told from the main character's point of view. I wish we could spend some time exploring her husband's point of view and the effect this experience has had on him. (Perhaps material for a sequel moving forward?)

This is a five-star book on my shelf. I would love to read more novels written by Liz Lazarus!
Rating: *****

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