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Bruce A. Brightwell
Sturm Paletti & Peter PLLC
(502) 589-9254
NAELA News Journal - NAELA Journal Online

Book Review

Proof

By C.E. Tobisman
Thomas & Mercer, 2017, 350 pp.
Reviewed by Bruce A. Brightwell, Esq.

Published March 2020

Although many legal thrillers are available to the public, few of them are related to the practice of elder law. But Proof — which won the 2018 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction — is an exception. Proof is the sequel to Tobisman’s first legal thriller, Doubt. But you don’t need to read Doubt to enjoy Proof — which performs well on its own.

The main character, Caroline Auden, is an attorney in solo practice with an extensive background in computers (and hacking). The book opens with Auden learning of the death of her grandmother. She believes that she has to deal with administering what remains of her grandmother’s estate; her grandmother had lived in an assisted living facility for a time, and the estate may be diminished. However, when Auden attempts to handle matters with the facility, she discovers that her grandmother had executed a handwritten will shortly before she died, leaving her entire estate to a charity known as Oasis Care.

Like the layers of an onion, Auden peels back the circumstances surrounding this handwritten document and in doing so discovers an intricate scheme related to Oasis, which apparently is a contractor that provides caregivers to work in assisted living facilities. Curiously, most of the residents, in supposed appreciation for the services of these caregivers, execute wills leaving everything to Oasis.

The scheme is extremely lucrative. Lucrative enough, in fact, for the owner of Oasis to use the funds generated to also support a large fraudulent real estate operation. Auden soon discovers that Oasis’ owner, with a multimillion-dollar illegal empire on the line, is playing for keeps. A hit man comes after her, and corrupt police try to frame her, forcing Auden underground. Eventually, however, her computer hacking skills, along with some covert assistance from an honest federal prosecutor, allow Auden to expose Oasis and clear her name.

Along the way, Auden’s time underground provides the vehicle for an interesting subplot as she seeks the assistance of her homeless uncle and develops a relationship with him.

This book is very fast-paced, with a great deal of action that has the reader devouring each page wondering what will happen next. There is no doubt that Tobisman is an attorney; all the legal aspects of the story ring true. The book does not leave lawyers who read it thinking “that isn’t right” at any point. In fact, the exploitation of elderly individuals in the story probably hits home for many elder law attorneys.

The only potential criticism is that Auden’s computer hacking background provides an extremely convenient rationale to explain how she manages to extricate herself from the nightmare she finds herself in. But as long as you are willing to suspend some disbelief about just how good a computer hacker Auden is, the plot flows along nicely.

For anyone who likes legal thrillers and action fiction, Proof is definitely a good read. If you happen to be an elder law attorney, you will probably enjoy it even more.

About the Reviewer

Bruce Brightwell, an attorney with Sturm, Paletti & Peter, PLLC, practices elder law and estate planning in the Louisville, Kentucky, and Southern Indiana area. He is certified as a Civil Trial Attorney by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, serves as an adjunct professor at the Brandeis School of Law, and is an executive editor on the NAELA Journal Editorial Board.