Through the Dark Looking Glass
by Garret Godwin
Authors' Tranquility Press

"Ira could read between the lines – here coercion meant torture. This was a legal system for a dictatorship, not a democracy."

Ira Ellingsworth has just lost his bid for district attorney and his wife. Now, he must work for Fred Rollins, the man who defeated him. Fred is an evangelical conservative with visions of political greatness. He will do anything to further his career and standing with the far right. Ira knows the only way to keep his job is to follow Fred’s lead and share his opinions. Ira even visits with and occasionally attends the mega-church Fred promotes. When three war protesters are arrested outside a federal building, Fred sees this as an opportunity to make a name for himself. He instructs Ira to take the case and throw the book at the accused. After some digging by the FBI, the legal team learns they can press for felony charges. However, their exuberance catches the interest of Homeland Security, and they take the case from Fred and Ira. One suspect in particular, Luke Peter, is being accused of multiple charges related to helping terrorists. Ira begins to see how the man is being unfairly prosecuted and, from the ACLU, finds ways to aid Luke’s defense team. This eventually gets him fired, but the people at the ACLU like his work and hire him. As a result of his involvement in this government case, Ira begins to be under surveillance. He will continue to take cases counter to the US government and fight against the infringement on personal freedoms.

Godwin has obviously done his research and does a great job combining the historical climate and laws of the early post-9/11 era within the arch of his narrative. His knowledge of the time’s changing laws and the impact on personal freedoms is used in easily understood and applicable ways in his story. Some parts of his book are reminiscent of the early John Grisham books in that they portray a lawyer’s occupation in a dramatic fashion. Similarly, the courtroom drama and the aspect of a government’s mishandling may remind readers of the classic film A Few Good Men. Historically, there have been many written opinions and lectures about how America responded in the years closest to 9/11, and Godwin’s book does a nice job of creating a narrative account of the line that America was working to define between personal liberties and the reach of the government. In some ways, the novel is a well-researched, narrative editorial on the period and the reaction of the United States.

The author writes clear and grammatically clean prose, and his pacing keeps the story proceeding at a steady measure. His ability to dramatize legal and political events in a way to engage readers and maintain interest is notable. It should be remarked that the depictions of the government agencies and the ACLU are presented without any grey areas. Each entity is represented as either good or evil without nuance, which could tint a reader’s response due to the political overtones. Readers interested in courtroom drama will enjoy Godwin’s depiction of the attorneys at work. In addition, those interested in America’s changing civil liberties will also find an informed and easy-to-read account of the early 2000s that will keep them engaged and interested.

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