Title: Betrayal High
Author: Mark M. Bello
Genre: Legal Thriller
Betrayal High by Mark M. Bello is the fifth in the Zackary Blake Series and follows what unfolds after a troubled youth, Kevin Burns, brings guns to his school in Michigan and injures several students. One of the students at the school, Kenny Tracey, the step-son of high-profile lawyer Zack Blake, stops him. Zack and Kenny want justice and reform and will stop at nothing to get it, even if it means bringing down large gun corporations and important government officials.
Being a legal thriller, Betrayal High is rife with courtroom scenes, policies, laws, and legal jargon, and being a lawyer himself, the author does a superb job of telling a solid story. Bello clearly knows law well and has done thorough research to write a realistic portrayal of what could unfold after a school shooting. That Bello doesn’t shy away from hot-button political topics like gun reform is a bold move and will be impressive to many readers. He weaves this into the political climate of current-day America. Anytime a reader can also learn something while reading fiction is always an added bonus.
Because of a plethora of legal terms, there are times when the narrative slows. Several pages of heavy summary are interspersed throughout the novel, but due to the constraints of keeping the novel at a reasonable length for the genre, this is understandable. Most of the narrative is packed with fast-paced dialogue and colorful characters. The book opens with a heart-thumping scene with young Kevin Burns’s thoughts and actions as he goes into his high school, hooking the reader immediately, and the story provides a satisfying, realistic ending. We leave with the feeling that while justice was served, there is still work to be done. This bittersweet finish reflects reality and isn’t sugar-coated to tie up all loose ends and give the characters an easy happily ever after.
Bello does an excellent job of pulling the reader in, making them feel the heartache the loved ones experienced after losing their children, and, on the flip side, loathing the power-hungry antagonists in the government. Although the novel is mostly plot-driven, the author has created several interesting characters we get to know through the 92,000 words.
Because of the number of characters, it was difficult to keep people straight, at times. This is partly due to similarities in names, most notably Kevin Burns’s father, Charles Burns, and Kevin’s lawyer, Charlie Barnes.
Betrayal High is a strong legal thriller that encourages the reader to question policies in current-day America and where they might be falling short. Mark M. Bello doesn’t shy away from addressing controversial topics and uses them in a way to make the reader think. People who enjoy a good legal thriller will be pulled into Betrayal High from the first page to the last.
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