Summary and book reviews of Confessions of an Innocent Man by David Dow

Confessions of an Innocent Man

by David R. Dow

Confessions of an Innocent Man by David R. Dow X
Confessions of an Innocent Man by David R. Dow
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Apr 2019, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2020, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

PROLOGUE

On the cinder- block wall, twelve feet away from the bars to the cages where my prisoners spend their days, a digital clock counts down toward zero. When they saw that clock for the first time, before I pressed the start button to get the numbers moving, it read 58656:00:00. That's how many hours they're going to be where they are: twenty- four hours a day, 365 days a year, for 2,444 days— six years, eight months, and eleven days. Today the clock says 49896:00:00. One year down, a bit more than five and a half to go. To celebrate, the three of us are having cake.

I say to prisoner number 1, whose name is Sarah, Happy anniversary.

She doesn't answer.

I say to prisoner number 2, whose name is Leonard, You too.

He doesn't say anything either.

I cut the cake in thirds and put their two pieces on two paper plates. I stick a plastic fork in each slice, like a birthday candle. I say, Y'all enjoy now.

And I slide each plate through the 4.25 inch space sepa¬rating the...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Rafael is the narrator of this book, so we only get his perspective on the story. Do you think his version of events is reliable?
  2. Rafael calls Tieresse his love and soul mate. With her permission, he sleeps with other women. Is he unfaithful? Why or why not?
  3. How much do you think Rafael's race and background had to do with the judge's readiness to convict him? Does his case remind you of anything you've read about in real life?
  4. Of everyone who had a hand in Rafael's wrongful conviction, why do you think Rafael feels compelled to take revenge on these two judges? Do you think his behavior is justified?
  5. Tieresse's son, Reinhardt, has a complicated relationship with Rafael. How does it evolve and change throughout the novel?
  6. Author David ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

It is circumstances that carry the wave that sweeps trendy Houston restaurateur Rafael Zhettah to death row in David R. Dow’s taut roller coaster of a thriller. The fact that Dow is a lawyer who has worked with more than a hundred death row clients imbues intimate authenticity into this debut, giving it a spark of life, and even a punch of gallows humor...continued

Full Review (563 words).

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(Reviewed by Donna Chavez).

Media Reviews

Booklist
The questions of who gets justice and why court procedure seems to take such precedence over individual lives will stay with readers after the satisfying ending to this surprising read.

Kirkus Reviews
A debut novel that's a page-turner with a message…A solidly suspenseful novel.

Booklist
This thought-provoking debut...[an] absorbing tale of misfortune takes readers inside the mind of a good man who’s desperate to prove his innocence as well as inside the world of a maximum-security prison and the horror that is death row...The questions of who gets justice and why court procedure seems to take such precedence over individual lives will stay with readers after the satisfying ending to this surprising read.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. An impressive fiction debut…The plot is a page-turner, and the addition of Dow's knowledge of the legal machinery of death and his nuanced characterization of his lead elevate this above similarly themed legal thrillers.

Library Journal (starred review)
[Confessions of an Innocent Man] explores wrongful convictions, the death penalty and appeals process, life on death row, and exoneration. It’s also about duplicity—the honest and hardworking man becoming a criminal only after a wrongful conviction; a legal system that seems too often to pit police, prosecutors, and judges against the truth—and features an ingenious, well-planned, and perfectly executed revenge. This fast-paced legal thriller powerfully captures themes of love, surrender, despair, and vengeance. It will appeal to fans of Phillip Margolin and George Pelecanos, and pair nicely with Anthony Ray Hinton’s memoir The Sun Does Shine.

Author Blurb John Grisham, New York Times bestselling author of The Reckoning
Every person wrongfully convicted of a crime at some point dreams of getting revenge against the system...As I zipped through the pages, I kept thinking, 'This book is too thin. I want more.'

Author Blurb Terry Teachout, drama critic, The Wall Street Journal
[A] terrifying modern-day revenger's tale, one whose furious, irresistible momentum will sweep you up - and make you think.

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Beyond the Book

The Controversy of Capital Punishment

Lethal injection room at San Quentin PrisonIn David R. Dow's thriller, Confessions of an Innocent Man, the protagonist is sentenced to death for the murder of his wife. Since the murder is committed in Texas, one of the 30 U.S. states that still allows capital punishment, he is sent directly to death row. There he awaits his execution among the 200+ other residents. From 1976 to December 2018, some 550 prisoners have been executed in Texas alone. (In 1972, in the ruling of Furman v. Georgia, the Supreme Court declared capital punishment unconstitutional, but this was negated by the 1976 ruling of Gregg v. Georgia, and states gradually began reincorporating the death penalty into their legal systems in the following years.)

The total number of executions nationwide has ebbed as ...

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