Book Review – Disappearing the Dead by KJ Sutherland

Let me preface this by saying two things:

  • I’m not a legal thriller afficionado
  • I really enjoyed this book

So, like I said, not a legal thriller afficionado. Like everyone else in ’93, I saw The Pelican Brief. Unlike everyone else, I wondered what the big deal about the story was. It was required watching, though, so I dutifully paid my $5 (back in my day…) and watched it. Bored me to tears. Made a gajillion dollars, but bored me to tears

Back in July, KJ Sutherland reached out to me on Twitter asking me to review her novel Disappearing The Dead. Like the dumbass I was, I said, “Sure, and I can have a review ready to go when it drops.” Okay, so I’m finally getting to the review part because I’m an insanely slow reader. Some folks would take this as a sign of something or other, but mostly it’s because if I promise to review a book, I’m gonna read every damned word in that book, even if it kills me. That’s because I don’t believe in leaving reviews on books that I just skimmed. Also, I’m lazy.

Anyway, now that I’m nearly a month late, I’m finally getting to the review.

So, TL;DR, it’s a good book.

I really enjoyed the way Sutherland wove all the various bits of militaria in with the legal aspects of a story about a murder and dismemberment, a missing pilot, and the Air Force’s unending desire to keep the lid on a story that wouldn’t shine a positive light on them. The legal world, from what I understand of it, has its own traditions and peccadillos about how it handles the world. The military also has its own traditions and peccadillos about it handles things. So, when those two worlds collide, you get some interesting fireworks. The primary difference between the two worlds is who is pulling the strings in the background. In the civilian world, money talks. In the military world, the top brass talks. In both cases, listening is usually the best bet.

Enter Paul Bennett, a civilian prosecutor who joins the military and promptly gets dumped onto a case defending a suspect. Two different skillsets, but Bennett adapts and attacks his new role with a zeal that irks his superiors. Irked top brass is not a pretty sight. Nor is irking top brass a task to take lightly. Thus, the gist of the story.

So, I don’t know what afficionados of legal thrillers look for in a story, but I can say this is a cracking good story. Entertaining and tense with well developed characters and a story with enough bobs and weaves to be reminiscent of a fight with Tyson. Also, like a fight with Tyson, it ends with vicious right hook you never saw coming but, in retrospect, should have expected.

It would have been easy to pull a rabbit out of the hat and say something like, “Surprise! It was a dream all along!” but Sutherland is a better storyteller than that and drops subtle breadcrumbs throughout the story so the ending, while unexpected, doesn’t come out of the wild blue yonder (my little nod to the USAF).

All told, pick up a copy and enter a world Sutherland has richly detailed with bits not only of the legal profession, but the insular world of the military as well. You won’t be disappointed.


When Paul Bennett joined the US Air Force as its Chief Counsel in Germany, he believed he had found the solution to a family crisis. The military moved the Bennetts into a German villa, paid his son’s medical bills, and assigned Paul to trials in scenic locations across Europe.

Then, as Congress is investigating the failed rescue operation of a missing fighter pilot, the severed limbs of a Turkish bride wash up in a German vineyard. The Brass is determined to put the husband, Kale, behind bars and expects Paul, who has since been assigned as Kale’s defense lawyer, to help put him there. But Paul refuses to be bullied by his superiors. To him, it’s a matter of professional ethics. To the military establishment, it’s political dynamite. And their reaction is as swift as it is devastating.

Now, Paul must rescue his client and himself from the clutches of military injustice. But first, he’ll need to uncover the connection between his client’s case and the disappearance of a Gulf War fighter pilot.”

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