Burden of Proof – Davis Bunn

Burden of Proof Davis Bunn
Burden of Proof by Davis Bunn
Also by this author: Outbreak
Published by Revell on November 3, 2020
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Speculative, Thriller
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Three weeks after his twenty-third birthday, Ethan missed the chance to save his brother's life when he was murdered on the steps of the courthouse in Jacksonville, Florida. Ever since that fateful day, Ethan has sensed a deep disconnect between the man he should have been and the one he has become. His days play out a beat too slow, his mind replaying the scene of his failure again and again.
But when his brother's widow appears, asking for his help in uncovering what was really behind his brother's death, Ethan is stunned to hear that she and her late husband were involved in a much larger case than he knew--one that threatens the global power structure. As Ethan joins the search for answers, he will enter into his own past--and discover a means of redeeming his future.
Bestselling and award-winning author Davis Bunn invites you into a world of intrigue as a man held captive by his failure learns how to move forward with hope.

The title is Burden of Proof. The cover shows a man in a suit walking down stairs while talking on a cell phone. The novel’s summary says something like “Ethan must face his past and join the search for answers to discover how to redeem his future.” What do you think the novel’s going to be about? If you guessed “legal thriller,” you’d be right—but also so very wrong.

I’ve never seen a novel begin with the twist. With no setup, little explanation, and barely a chapter of exposition, Bunn zaps his protagonist into the past—his present consciousness now inhabiting his past self—in order to alter time and prevent a tragedy. Normally, I would call this gimmicky, but Bunn pulls it off by having it be just as much a surprise to Ethan, his main character.

Ethan wakes up in the 1980s, thirty-five years younger and with all the knowledge of his older self. His mission: prevent his attorney brother from being murdered on the courthouse steps. Adrian had been on those steps because he was defending his wife’s biotech company from a hostile takeover. The killer was never caught. This time would be different.

After the murder attempt fails, Ethan and Adrian find that they may not be safe yet. Adrian’s wife has something these people want and they’ll stop at nothing to get it. The latter part of the novel moves into a taut legal thriller as Adrian goes toe-to-toe with opposing counsel as Ethan unravels the mystery of why a big investment group is so intent on the takeover.

Burden of Proof was a fun read. It’d make for a great movie. (In fact, I wonder if that’s what Bunn was gunning for.) So long as you don’t look to close or think too hard, the plot holds up, but think too closely about any of many elements and the whole thing unravels.

Everything just sort of sits at a superficial level. Ethan adjusts to his time travel with relative ease, as does everybody he tells. The characters are rather static and don’t develop or change through the novel. Everybody mentions how Ethan has changed (being old Ethan), but we never see original young Ethan as a comparison. Sonia is every bit as cantankerous and unlikable in the past as she is in the present, after a lifetime of loss and crisis.

Bunn could have dived deeper into the ethics of the biotech Sonia was developing. He could have waxed philosophical about time travel and changing the past. He could have had Ethan distracted from his primary mission by having to deal with past regrets. None of these things happen. Burden of Proof is fast, fun, and entertaining, but it doesn’t really grapple with the issues it is raising.

Think of it like the Fast and Furious franchise. You know it’s going to be crazy. You know it isn’t going to make any sense. Wild things are going to happen and there won’t be much an attempt at explanation. But you let them by with it because it’s just fun. So I’ll let Burden of Proof off the hook. It’s serviceable. It had the potential for more. You’ll still enjoy reading it.