Rule of Evidence by Jack Campbell

With this third in the series, we continue the pattern of action/character building in the first half of the story and then the trial in the second. It’s a formula that works and once again the unrealistic tv-courtroom drama is (mostly) avoided in favor of an engaging but grounded court martial trial.

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Story: Paul’s hope-to-be fiancee Jen Shen is working in the engineering department aboard the Michaelson’s sister ship Maury. After a routine exercise testing new stealth equipment, the Maury disappears in an explosion that takes out most of the ship. Jen is the only survivor from the Engineering department – creating suspicion that she was the cause of the explosion. Paul will have to use all his resources to defend Shen and save her from court martial – or even the death sentence.

Admittedly, this was the least favorite of mine for the series. Although still as engaging as the previous, the cause of the accident was obvious and completely overlooked by everyone. It made the lawyers, who had hitherto looked quite competent, look rather silly. And, ok, if you’ve read a Campbell book, you already know that military hardware is inherently unreliable – explosions are more likely to be the cause of manufacturing problems than a bomb. So I had a hard time with the credibility of a trial that purports malice rather than incompetence – even considering the possibility of coverups.

All the same, Campbell brings in some strong pathos here. The loss of comrades is never glossed over and Jen gets to be both strong and very vulnerable. Paul does ride a white charger to save the day (sadly – it was a bit too deus ex machina) but I enjoyed the book all the same.

I listened to the Audible version of this book and the narrator did an excellent job.

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