‘Hidden Agenda’ by Peter S. Berman is an amazing five-star crime-thriller/courtroom drama novel! It keeps the reader engaged, with plenty of dialogue, brilliant characters and most importantly, a dramatic storyline. Hidden Agenda is separated into four sections (books), beginning as a crime thriller, taking the reader right into the thick of a courtroom drama as it builds it’s way with many twists and turns into the concluding fourth section.
After losing his wife in an accident a few years before, Jeremy Hart, a senior prosecutor in the LA District Attorney’s office, is encouraged by his counselor to try socialising again. She offers him a ticket for a charitable event where he first meets Claire Carleton. Ex-model Claire is trapped in a loveless marriage to a wealthy and powerful man, Peter Carleton, who is also very abusive and possessive towards her.
Love blossoms between Claire and Jeremy and they wind up in an affair that neither one wants to walk away from. However, with Peter always looking over her shoulder it is difficult for Claire and Jeremy to meet up. After messaging to each other over the internet, Peter’s suspicions of an affair are proven when he catches Claire sitting as her computer as a message from Hart pops up. Peter goes on to violently attack Claire and threaten her life – either that or she could lose her two daughters if Peter was to take them to Brazil with him. Leaving her with no options, Claire is trapped and reveals all to Jeremy.
Later, Peter’s body is found on the driveway of his home where he has been shot to death. It is then up to the detectives, Gibson and Donahue, to establish the motive, the opportunity and the culprit. Jeremy Hart is suspect no.1 and as the evidence points to him it is not long before a trial begins. However, as more questions are raised, Gibson and Donahue continue to investigate behind the scenes to find out the truth of Peter’s murder.
Hidden Agenda is beautifully woven together and is written in such a way that it is easy for the reader to follow and yet produces an engrossing story. The first section (Book 1) of Hidden Agenda introduces the readers to Jeremy Hart and Claire Carleton as the reader follows Jeremy’s story, getting to know the main characters involved. Book 2 focuses on detectives Gibson and Donahue as well as the main investigation where we are made aware of the evidence. This takes us to Book 3, concentrating on the courtroom drama of the trial with lawyers, Brunon and Kelly, and then finally we reach the concluding section Book 4!
As a reader, I really enjoyed that Hidden Agenda keeps to the one crime continuously and is written and broken down in order. It keeps the reader engaged and interested as well as opens up your eyes for those who are not too familiar of the courtroom system. I really enjoyed reading this style of writing. Even during the trial scenes Donahue and Gibson were still working and questioning certain areas of the case behind the scenes which constantly keeps the story moving forward and the reader hoping that they find out the answers to all of their questions.
One of my favourite pieces of writing in this book is when Berman describes the sun setting as Hart is about to visit his colleague, John Taylor. At this point Hart is at a loss as to what to do regarding the beating that Claire has taken from her husband, Peter:
“It was just after 6.00pm. The sun had set in a crystal clear sky and the city far below him was a twinkling sea of lights, blanketing the horizon like so many stars in the Milky Way.”
These lines create a beautiful and moody atmosphere for the reader and I personally drowned in these words as I felt the dilemma that Hart was in.
I found myself being a little sympathetic for Hart’s character when he becomes emotional when speaking with his attorney, Brunon. After being locked up, awaiting for his trial, Hart is growing weary and was a shadow of a man in comparison to earlier on the book. However, this was mentioned subtly but still had an impact on me. This certainly helped keep the character Hart alive.
My overall favourite section of Hidden Agenda was Book 2 where the reader is introduced to detectives Gibson and Donahue. Gibson is a family man with a loving wife. He is used to working alone but on this particular case he is asked to work with female detective Donahue. Donahue is a feminine but strong and level-headed woman. Gibson and Donahue work really great together and whilst keeping a great sense of professionalism there is also a nice friendship that grows between them. The reader really gets a sense that Gibson admires and respects Donahue to the point where he considers working with her on a more permanent level. Considering that Gibson was always used to working alone this would be quite a change for him.
For the characters alone, especially ‘Gibby’ and Donahue I would love to read another story by Peter S. Berman. I can only hope that he will create another great crime novel with these fantastic detectives in. The crime in Hidden Agenda is laid out well for the reader and this style of writing is so easy to follow and yet constantly keeps the reader interested and guessing the outcome. If you like a great crime-thriller you will not be disappointed with Hidden Agenda!
For the purpose of an honest and fair review A Reader’s Review Blog received Hidden Agenda gratefully from BookHub publishing.
Reviewed by Caroline Barker