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Conviction by Julia Dahl
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Conviction

by Julia Dahl

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Three people are killed in their beds in Crown Heights in the early nineties. The teenage foster son is quickly convicted and life moves on. However, reporter Rebekah Roberts stumbles across this case, starts investigating it, and quickly discovers that this rush to judgment was just that, and a bad one at that. Her investigation takes her in a number of directions, including ones too close to home, ultimately leading her to question whether the results were worth it. It is a fascinating tale. ( )
  Susan.Macura | Jun 20, 2017 |
Julia Dahl came on the mystery novel scene in 2014 with her book Invisible City about the murder of a Chasidic woman and the closed Chasidic community that wants to handle the investigation and subsequent punishment of the perpetrator. It was a welcome change from the routine mysteries that seem to populate that genre.

Her second book, Run You Down received, if my memory serves correctly, lackluster reviews, one of the reasons I didn’t read it.

However, a starred Publishers Weekly review as well as other positive reviews spurred me on to read Conviction, the third book in the Rebekah Roberts, crime reporter, series and it is clearly a case of “What am I missing?”

Amanda Button runs The Homicide Blog, a blog devoted to logging in all homicides in New York. As a result of its notoriety, she gets letter from convicted murders stating that they are falsely incarcerated. But her job is not to investigate cold cases.

In comes Rebekah Roberts, whose well received article about a massacre in American Voice. Wrongful convictions is a hot topic and Rebekah is thinking about writing an article on the subject and Amanda encourages her to look through the letters she’s received. One in particular interests her: a triple homicide from 1992 in which a mother, father and young daughter were shot in the master bedroom of their home.

DeShawn Perkins, the couple’s foster child, then sixteen years old, confessed to the crime and was convicted. He’s served 20 years in jail, all the while saying his confession was coerced, there was no adult in the room with him when he confessed and he did not murder his foster parents. As Rebekah investigates, clues lead her to believe Perkins.

Part I of the book recounts, in flashbacks, Perkins’ experiences with the police leading to his ultimate conviction, alongside Rebekah’s investigation. Part II recounts the murder’s story. (I don’t think I’m spoiling the book by saying that Perkins is innocent—otherwise there would be no story.) Part III is the denouement.

My problem with the book is that the plot seems forced, somewhat implausible, although maybe it isn’t. The connection to the Chasidic community is tenuous and while in Invisible City this connection was a novelty, by now it’s more humdrum. Rebekah Roberts is a nice character, but also a forgettable one. The connection to the mother that abandoned her, which was introduced in Invisible City has a small and unnecessary role in Conviction.

As I said to someone last night, I don’t mind having read Conviction, but had I not read it, I’d be no worse off.

If you’re looking for mysteries that lament the deplorable state of our newspaper industry, as this does, my suggest would be to read Bruce DeSilva’s Liam Mulligan series. It’s got action, wit, criticism and more. ( )
  EdGoldberg | Jun 7, 2017 |
I like freelance reporter Rebekah Roberts. She's a refugee from Orthodox Judaism and is slowly reestablishing a relationship with the mother who abandoned her. In this third book in the series, she's asked to help a man possibly unfairly convicted of the murders of his foster father, mother, and sister. Rebekah digs deep into old archives and learns about the involvement of her mentor Saul, also an ex-Orthodox, retired cop, and live-in boyfriend of her mother. There's nothing revelatory or thrilling here but the making of an "unorthodox" murderer. ( )
  froxgirl | May 3, 2017 |
Julia Dahl has written two other books in the Rebekah Roberts series. Rebekah is a journalist (alright, she works for a tabloid!) who seems to find cases to investigate that involve the Orthodox Jewish community as well as the wider community in New York. There is good character development, the story moves along quickly, and held my interest throughout as the plot moved back and forth between the time right after the Crown Heights riots in the early 1990s and present (2014) time. I enjoyed this book and when I find the time, will go back and read the prior in the series. I don't think that not having read the previous two books negatively affected my reading of this one. ( )
  vkmarco | Feb 12, 2017 |
Julia Dahl’s Rebekah Roberts’ series is one I’ve had my eye on for a long time; in fact I own the first two in the series, but haven’t yet read them. That didn’t stop me from jumping at the chance to review Conviction, the most recent addition. Now I can’t wait to start from the beginning.
A man imprisoned for murdering his foster family twenty-two years ago contacts New York Times stringer, Rebekah Roberts. He claims he is innocent and asks she look into his case. Backtrack to Crown Heights in July of 1992 when a little boy enters the Glorious Gospel Church covered in blood and in shock. His foster mother, father and sister are found dead and shortly thereafter his foster brother is arrested, eventually charged and convicted of the murders. This is the crime Rebekah Roberts is asked to investigate over two decades later. In doing so she uncovers some disconcerting family connections to the crime and after twenty years brings a killer back to tie up loose ends. The Crown Heights’ riots and tensions between the Hasidic and black communities in the 1990s figure heavily in this novel and provide not only a context, but also a rather unknown part of history to this reader. Towards the conclusion of the book, Isaiah Grunwald asks himself, “Where did what was moral turn into what was immoral?” I think this could be asked of more than one character in Julia Dahls’ novel.

While Conviction can be read as a standalone, I highly recommend starting from the beginning for context. This is a not-to-miss series. ( )
  bayleaf | Jan 3, 2017 |
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"In the summer of 1992, a year after riots exploded between black and Jewish neighbors in Crown Heights, a black family is brutally murdered in their Brooklyn home. A teenager is quickly convicted, and the justice system moves on. Twenty-two years later, journalist Rebekah Roberts gets a letter: I didn't do it. Frustrated with her work at the city's sleaziest tabloid, Rebekah starts to dig. But witnesses are missing, memories faded, and almost no one wants to talk about that grim, violent time in New York City--not even Saul Katz, a former cop and her source in Brooklyn's insular Hasidic community. So she goes it alone. And as she gets closer to the truth of that night, Rebekah finds herself in the path of a killer with two decades of secrets to protect. From the author of the Edgar-nominated Invisible City comes another timely thriller that illuminates society's darkest corners. Told in part through the eyes of a jittery eyewitness and the massacre's sole survivor, Julia Dahl's Conviction examines the power--and cost--of community, loyalty, and denial."--… (more)

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