Book Review: Without Precedent by J.D. Trafford

© Thomas & Mercer, 2019.


How much would you give up to get justice for your family?

Matthew Daley is a Manhattan corporate lawyer at the top of his game. As the first defense attorney on call to get pharmaceutical companies out of trouble, Matt is rising in the judicial system exactly as he planned. Until his sister dies of a heroin overdose.

Now, torn between conscience and career, the newly minted law partner faces a critical choice: defend the very companies that manufactured the addictive drugs, or give up his fiancée and his hard-won dream job to fight for justice in his sister’s name.

Returning to his blue-collar hometown with a ragtag band of law-school misfits by his side, Matt squares off against a team of New York corporate attorneys in a high-stakes courtroom battle. If he wins, the case could have national implications, bringing down the multibillion-dollar Big Pharma industry. If he loses, he’ll become collateral damage in the greatest fall of his career and his life.

Via Goodreads


I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to politics. I started reading law and crime procedural type novels in the seventh grade, starting with the classic Presumed Innocent. I took on a political science minor in college. My favorite class? Constitutional Law. Yes. I’m that person.

When Without Precedent popped up on my radar, I snatched it up without hesitation. Exposing Big Pharma? Showing the impact our health care system and corporate setting for medicine can impact us personally? I was so excited to read this book, and upon reading it, it rendered my opinionated self temporarily speechless. Is this a good thing? Not exactly.

I have to give the author a lot of credit. This book has some of the most well done research I’ve seen in a very long time. Trafford knows the ins and outs of opioids in medical corporations down pat: he knows the arguments for, against, how people in Big Pharma often behave, and how it affects families. More than that, though, it impacts a lot of the scenes in Without Precedent. The ones where this knowledge plays an important role are riveting with tension, such as when Matt has to watch his sister die from her overdose, and they set up the rest of the book. It is clear that Trafford not only researched the topic, but he cares a great deal about it. He’s passionate about the issue. This isn’t a book that was researched for the sake of plot. It was plot that was born out of the author’s passions and background. It’s refreshing to see.

The problem with Without Precedent lies in the characterization and dialogue. Sometimes it feels like the author is plugging in stereotypes and cliches, and they aren’t even consistent throughout the book. Matthew’s mother is tough and doesn’t take any crap, but is a nervous drunk. Matthew’s brother is a redneck liberal (I’m sorry, what?), and Matthew’s sister wrote verbatim how she got a drug issue in journals they found in a hotel. And I could go on. A lot of the characters and scenes between them seemed way too convenient and on the nose, and I realized at about chapter five that it was because they are: the main purpose of these people were to push the plot along, and as a result we have cardboard stand ins instead of actual characters. Matthew is the only character who showed true dynamic growth, and even he had hiccups along the way. It often felt like the author plugged in cliches that he read from different books depending on the situation. This resulted in 4th grade level dialogue sometimes, and in a procedural book that is tackling such complex topics, it’s jarring.

Another issue I had was the ending. A perfectly good defense team dissolves due to a series of careless mistakes, and it doesn’t feel like Matthew wins the case from his own skill. He’s lauded as a world class lawyer, and while I can understand throwing seemingly unsurpassable obstacles to build tension and suspense, he doesn’t get out of his own accord. Instead, deus ex machina comes to the rescue, which drives me insane, and it also underscores the relevance of the issue. Again, a lot more thought was put in the plot rather than the characters. It impacted the very structure of the book in a negative way.

Also, ALL of the characters in this book have eyes that sparkle more than a Twilight vampire.

This being said? I sincerely, sincerely hope the author continues to hone his craft and write more books. For all of its flaws, Without Precedent is just so dang earnest. When it came to the laws and issues presented, I learned a lot. What became very clear about Trafford and his work here is that he loves what he does, and the passion he has for writing was so infectious that it propelled me from page to page until the end. I’m not sure if I would have finished this book without his enthusiasm, care, and research.

I would like to thank NetGalley and the author for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 💀💀

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