Innocence is the third mystery novel by Boston lawyer David Hosp. Having read Dark Harbor and The Betrayed I believe Hosp already belongs in the old reliable category of mystery novelists whose books are a safe bet for a fun read. His latest mystery is most certainly that. There are a couple of minor things in Innocence that annoyed me a bit but I am probably being difficult.

Innocence marks the return of Boston attorney Scott Finn and his sidekick, former police detective Tom Kozlowski, first seen in Dark Harbor.  The novel’s premise has Scott Finn being caught up in a case sponsored by the New England Innocence Project. This plot line has to be very close to David Hosp’s heart as he is involved with that group. Hosp even has Finn and Kozlowski discuss a couple of finer points about the real value of evidence but none of it feels forced or from the author’s personal agenda.

Vincente Salazar has been in jail for fifteen years for the attempted rape and shooting of police officer Madeline Steele, an injury that left her in a wheelchair. Salazar, who once was a doctor in El Salvador, may have been part of a Latino street gang and may be innocent. Finn’s muscle, Kozlowski, may have been involved in the case and may have been more than Steele’s colleague. Neither the Boston police department nor the Latino street gang wants this case reopened.

This brings up the first minor thing that nagged at me. Finn just received the court’s permission to check out the DNA evidence in the case and though it is clear that alone will not be enough to grant Salazar a new trial he is already being told by the cops that reopening the case may not be a good idea. It’s the “I’m going to look harder because I am being told not to look” detective novel ploy. Granted, this is not what gets Finn involved in the case but I found it awkward nonetheless.

That aside, Innocence is a solid mystery novel. Not that it begins slowly but this whodunit gradually picks up even more speed as events wildly unfold. There are quite a few warranted twists and turns here. Some of them are telegraphed just enough to make the reader feel real smart when he / she gets the predicted payoff but David Hosp keeps you guessing about the bigger issues and wanting to know more.

My second quibble with Innocence is the character of Lissa, Finn’s intern assistant: She cannot say a single sentence without using the F word. I am most certainly not sensitive to foul language but I found Lissa’s use of swear words annoying, pointless, and tiresome. It simply gets in the way of a fun read. Hosp could have found a more original way to tell the reader she is a tough cookie. Blue language is often a crutch in comedy and it is a crutch here.

Being careful not to play spoiler, let’s just say the final reveal of Innocence may leave more demanding mystery fans a bit peeved. I like David Hosp so perhaps I am a bit more of a generous reader here than a newcomer might be. I think it is a fairly clever ploy that in some ways addresses some of the underlying questions behind ideas like the Innocence Project.

David Hosp
Warner Books 2007
419 pages

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