A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Confessions of an Innocent Man by David R. Dow- Feature and Review


"Every person wrongfully convicted of a crime at some point dreams of getting revenge against the system. In Confessions of an Innocent Man, the dream comes true and in a spectacular way."--John Grisham, New York Times bestselling author of The Reckoning

A thrillingly suspenseful debut novel, and a fierce howl of rage that questions the true meaning of justice.

Rafael Zhettah relishes the simplicity and freedom of his life. He is the owner and head chef of a promising Houston restaurant. A pilot with open access to the boundless Texas horizon. A bachelor, content with having few personal or material attachments that ground him. Then, lightning strikes. When he finds Tieresse--billionaire, philanthropist, sophisticate, bombshell--sitting at one of his tables, he also finds his soul mate and his life starts again. And just as fast, when she is brutally murdered in their home, when he is convicted of the crime, when he is sentenced to die, it is all ripped away. But for Rafael Zhettah, death row is not the end. It is only the beginning. Now, with his recaptured freedom, he will stop at nothing to deliver justice to those who stole everything from him.

This is a heart-stoppingly suspenseful, devastating, page-turning debut novel. A thriller with a relentless grip that wants you to read it in one sitting. David R. Dow has dedicated his life to the fight against capital punishment--to righting the horrific injustices of the death penalty regime in Texas. He delivers the perfect modern parable for exploring our complex, uneasy relationships with punishment and reparation in a terribly unjust world. 



Confessions of an Innocent ManConfessions of an Innocent Man by David R. Dow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Confessions of an Innocent Man by David R. Dow is a 2019 Dutton publication.

A thought provoking, atypical and emotional crime story!

Rafael Zhettah is a private aircraft pilot, and the head chef at a Houston restaurant, happily married, content with his life, and looking forward to what the future may bring. But, in the blink of an eye, everything changes. His beloved wife is murdered and despite having an alibi, he is convicted and sent to death row.

However, a stunning turn of events garners Rafael his freedom, just in the nick of time. However, his outrage towards the system that robbed him of years he will never get back, and very nearly cost him his life, has left him entertaining ideas about how to get even. Perhaps the Old Testament method of ‘an eye for an eye’ would be the most fitting form of revenge…

Well, I must admit, If I had been in Rafael’s shoes, I would probably entertain a few revenge fantasies and it would be hard not to feel bitter. So, from this angle, Rafael’s feelings are quite understandable. But as righteous as his feelings may be, when he begins to plot his revenge, and then follow through with it, he begins to see things are not as black and white as he thought.

Issues arise that he didn’t anticipate, causing more than one crisis of conscience. But the suspense builds to an unbearable pitch as small mistakes could land him right back into some very hot water, and forces beyond his control may unravel all his carefully constructed plans.

I hate using those old cliches like 'compulsively readable' but the phrase fits this book perfectly.

Once I started reading it, I could not put it down!!

In the first segment of the story, the author begins by building an emotional relationship between the reader and Rafael. He is honest, almost to a fault, admitting his foibles up front, which goes a long way towards establishing trust.

We know for a fact that he did not kill his wife. But he’s sent to die anyway, a problem that is becoming an epidemic in real life.

In the second segment of the book, the author examines Raphael's time in prison, the relationships he builds, the attorneys who champion his cause and work tirelessly to overturn his conviction.

This segment is harrowing, heartbreaking and made me squirm in my seat, as Raphael nearly meets his end. This is also the part of the story where the reader truly invests themselves in Raphael’s outrage. The court system, the judges, and the entire flawed process, very nearly executed an innocent man.

The third segment is also a tough one. This is where the reader must decide if Raphael is doing the right thing. One might be tempted to urge him on, but we also watch him struggle with his conscience.

However, the ability to empathize with those who nearly committed murder waxes and wanes, not only for Raphael, but for me, as well. Watching all this play out is very engrossing, but it is also quite thought provoking.

However, the conclusion packs the hardest punch of all. I was nearly a hot mess by the end of this book. It is emotional, and tears at the heart in a variety of ways.

The story has some flaws, but despite how well thought out and easily executed Raphael’s plans went, it may require a bit too much suspension of belief for some readers.

I was more than willing to play along though, because the core of the story is outstanding, and the unmistakable moral carries a powerful and important message.

David R. Dow writes what he knows, bringing along an insider’s perspective on the judicial system and the perils of capital punishment.






David R. Dow is the Cullen Professor at the University of Houston Law Center, where he teaches constitutional law and theory, contract law, the death penalty, and law-and-literature. A graduate of Rice and Yale, Dow is also the founder of the Texas Innocence Network (TIN), Texas' oldest innocence project, and the co-founder (with his wife, Katya) of the Juvenile and Capital Advocacy Project (JCAP). Working through his death penalty clinic, Dow and his team of lawyers, clinical professors, students, and interns, have represented more than one hundred death row inmates during their state and federal appeals.

Dow is the author of both scholarly papers and texts, as well as books for a general audience. His first memoir, The Autobiography of an Execution (published by Twelve), was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the winner of the Barnes & Noble Discover award for nonfiction. His second memoir, Things I've Learned From Dying (also published by Twelve), was named by NPR as one of the best books of 2014. Confessions of an Innocent Man, Dow's first novel, was published by Dutton in 2019.

Dow and his wife Katya have one son, Lincoln. They live in Houston and Durango, Colorado, along with their dogs Delano and Soul.

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