A defendant takes the stand to give his closing speech, his lawyer unable or unwilling to proceed under his client’s instruction. What happens next is one of the most unusual, and thought provoking crime fiction reads that I have come across in a long time.
The defendant starts by stating that his lawyer had asked him to leave some parts of the story out, as the truth can be too difficult to explain or perhaps just too far away from the jurors who will have to decide whether the eight pieces of evidence that the prosecution have presented have raised the bar too far for reasonable doubt to win the day.
The narrative structure of this book is without break one young man’s description of his counter claims against the crucial pieces of evidence presented and as such it is incredibly powerful but also at times a difficult one to pull off; this is not a short book and I am unused to one voice without interruption, but on balance this difference is one of the things that will make me remember this book long after I have read and forgotten many others.
From my point of view, and as the book is presented, I was one of the jurors listening to a young man who lives a life unlike the one he does, and has all of his life, and that was obviously part of the point. I was there to judge with complete with ignorance about gangs and the way that those who live in areas controlled by them are powerless to stay completely clear of their influence, even if they don’t join the gang itself, which I’m very glad to say our defendant hadn’t. The book starts off with quite a lot of street vernacular, which sets the scene but the usage of this decreases as the speech continues, just used enough to remind the reader that you are listening to a young man who is fighting for his freedom, against what he sees as an injustice.
I have to admit this book got to me. Not only did I learn something about stuff I only see on the news, which was both skilfully presented without at all glorifying gangs, but perhaps explaining a little about a world that thankfully hasn’t touched my life. You Don’t Know Me also gave an insight into how the way a story is presented, how much you buy into that story depends on how believable each of its elements is. That said I very much doubt that any judge would have allowed this speech on length and the mass introduction of new evidence, but that didn’t in anyway detract from the gripping nature of the narrative. The world as many of us know, is made up of shades of grey and I was interested to see how much towards the black shades I was willing to go before I said ‘enough,’ and the answer was further than I would have expected before I started reading this one.
A superb debut with much to think about and as such this would make an unusual book club read, but one that I’m sure would provide a lively debate, not only about the content itself but the way the story is presented.
I’m very grateful to Penguin UK for allowing me to read an ARC of this unique crime fiction novel. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.
First Published UK: 4 May 2017
Publisher: Penguin UK
No of Pages: 376
Genre: Crime Fiction