“The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing.”
Socrates’s ancient words take on modern-day meaning in INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE, the third book in a series following self-questioning, 50-something therapist and family mediator, Grace McDonald. In this installment, McDonald attempts to navigate the blurred lines between rape and hookups – a deceptively breezy synonym for the flippant sex so prevalent on today’s college campuses.
The reader quickly learns that the parties involved don’t always agree that these seemingly casual encounters are of the consensual kind. Fresh from a frat party bedding, college student Hannah emerges from a boozy fog with the understanding that she’s just been raped by Logan. Logan, however, saunters away without a care from what he views as a routine hookup, his “boys will be boys” attitude largely shaped by that of his wealthy, misogynistic father. A shaken Hannah, however, is just as confident in her perception of what went down and seeks to address it via legal channels. Fully expecting the scales of justice to weigh in her favor, she is blind-sided when policewoman (and Grace’s friend), Patsy, tells Hannah there is insufficient evidence to pursue the rape charges. That’s when Socrates’s philosophical musings bob to the surface, bringing with them the revelation that, when it comes to life, there are no certainties.
The questions that arise from a culture of rape and hookups are presented in all their complexities, particularly as Grace counsels her referrals from the Kaw Valley Rape Crisis Center. This is how she meets Hannah. It’s also how she meets Shelby, another college student who is troubled by a niggling suspicion that an unplanned sleepover at a classmate’s house was not innocent, despite his protestations that “nothing happened.” When Shelby commits an act of desperation, Grace is filled with guilt. Could she have prevented this? Was there something truly sinister about Shelby’s date night? After Grace receives a clue that may support her suspicions, she is compelled to discover the truth.
The anguish felt by both Hannah and Grace sets off a series of events in which each pursues answers and retribution in ways that are extreme and outside the boundaries of law. Hannah and a friend are determined to face off with an unsuspecting Logan, while Grace turns detective to track down and expose the guy she believes is responsible for Shelby’s tragic despondency. Along the way, Grace is also juggling a messy past, including an estrangement with her son. Those who haven’t read the first two books in the series might be at a loss when it comes to this storyline. Still, there’s enough here, otherwise, to satisfy readers hungry for a meaty story.
Author Susan Kraus does her homework in INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE, weaving a compelling story about the insidious nature of sexual assault on college campuses and the ways in which society supports a culture of victim apathy and abuse. With authority and storytelling finesse, the book brings into question long-held beliefs about what constitutes sex crimes and how the justice system addresses them in ways that not only fail victims, but that enable perpetrators to repeat their offenses.
~Libby Wiersema for IndieReader