Yocum’s “The Sacrifice Of Lester Yates” is a top-notch exciting legal thriller. You have to begin with the caveat that the legal system functions quite well in reality and the prisons are filled with guilty men, not innocent ones, and that no death row inmate would be without a team of government-paid lawyers picking apart their trials to the last second while few even have a clue what the victim’s names were. However, this is fiction, not reality, and exciting fiction is set up when you have a state attorney general fearing that the wrong man is due for execution and time is ticking away.
This novel is incredibly well written and, if this is a good example of Yocum’s work, then we have lots more good reading ahead. The pace is tremendous and the characters well thought out. Van Buren is not the tilting at windmills type of crusader. He’s the average guy who wants to do the right thing. He just doesn’t realize when he starts what a giant can of worms he’s opening.
The description of what Van Buren feels as he ascends political office and loses touch with what matters is great: “I could see the skyline through my own reflection on the tinted windows. There were mornings when I wasn’t sure I liked the man staring back at me. It was not the creases that ran away from the corners of my eyes, the flecks of gray or the softening of the jowls that I found troubling. It was my eyes, and it was what I didn’t see that troubled me. They had lost their fire.”
Lester Yates himself was an all-time loser, resigned to his lot in life: “His brown eyes weren’t sad, but simply resigned to a world that had dictated terms from the day he was born. I doubted anyone had ever taken the time to teach him how to throw a baseball or put on deodorant, or had helped him with his math homework. What he knew about life he had absorbed from the sidelines, never quite sure how to get in the game. His entire life had been spent taking orders from teachers and bosses and prison guards.”
Also, the novel shows the reader in this legal -political thriller the different areas of Ohio from the cosmopolitan Columbus to the Ohio River Valley where rotting factories and opioid addiction dots the landscape: “The Ohio Valley was a mere shadow of the one that I had known. There were a pitiful few steel mill jobs left in 2007, and the once-smoking behemoths that lined the banks of the Ohio River were mostly cold and silent. The air was clean now, but good jobs were few.”
An absolutely great read.