Book Review / Debbie Babitt / Reviews with Spoilers

Debbie Babitt | First Victim

The Book: 

First Victim by Debbie Babitt
Published June 28th 2022 by Scarlet
Date read: June 25, 2022

The Characters: 

Her daughter, Alexis

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Buy it on | Amazon

The Plot (from Goodreads):

The line between justice and revenge blurs when a judge takes the law into her own hands.

The Honorable Alice D. McKerrity is no stranger to violence. From the bench at Manhattan Supreme, she has seen the most hardened killers pass through her courtroom. But there’s something about this trial—a defendant charged with the murder of a pregnant woman—that affects her as no other case ever has. Her chaotic, stressful home life only adds to her mounting feelings of panic and fear. She’s also harboring a secret that if exposed could have far-reaching ramifications both personally and professionally. And now, unbeknownst to Alice, her daughter has begun a search for her biological father.

As the trial progresses, Alice’s life starts to unravel. Nightmares she suffered as a girl return with a vengeance. Phantom sightings torment her. Is she being paranoid? Or are the specters real? Almost at the breaking point, she begins to doubt her own sanity. Then she makes a shocking discovery that sends her on a collision course with her past and a terror-filled night in the woods in Upstate New York. Confronted with the unspeakable, she must face a decades-buried truth as she fights for her survival against a cunning adversary that forces her to question everything she ever believed about herself . . . and tests her limits as a woman, a judge, and a mother.

Narrated from the perspectives of three women—Alice, her daughter, and Alice’s girlhood friend—First Victim is a suspenseful tale of guilt, justice, and long-awaited retribution.

Click here for book spoilers for First Victim
Book spoilers ahead–if you haven’t yet read First Victim, I suggest you turn back now.

The Twist:

William Young was the man who had raped Alice. Alice allowed him to represent himself in court and said he didn’t have to be shackled, but Young managed to escape with Alice as his captive. He had the help of a female officer as his getaway driver.

He brought Alice back to her hometown and held her captive in an ice house in the woods.

Coincidentally, Alexis went to Alice’s hometown at the same time to meet with Alice’s old friend Connie to try to find out more about her father. Connie was also employing another young woman, Mia, who was clearly running from abuse. While Connie and Alexis were speaking about Alice, Mia came to Connie and led them to the man who had been abusing her–William Young.

While Alice was held captive, she realize that Young was impregnating his other captives and trying to raise their children. Mia was one of these children.

Connie, Alexis, and Mia showed up just as Alice was escaping. Young shot Mia, and Alice killed Young.

The man in the woods was Connie’s brother Teddy, who was blamed for some murders Young committed. He was there the night Young raped Alice as a girl. Alice had lost her virginity to Teddy, and he was Alexis’s father (although we were lead to believe Young was).

The Ending:

Connie and Alice became friends again. Alexis had her baby and got engaged to Damien. Alice was never charged for killing Young, as it was deemed self-defense.

The Review: 

Thank you to Scarlet Suspense for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

First Victim reminded me a lot of a Karin Slaughter book, which is about the highest praise I can give a thriller. It had the grisly, twisted scenes I love, and the plot took a handful of unexpected turns. Things aren’t as they seem in this story, starting with the very first scene. This book is full of lies, deception, past trauma, and revenge.

Alice is such an interesting character. Her home life isn’t easy. She’s hiding her husband’s early-onset Alzheimers from the world, and she has a 29-year-old daughter living at home who acts more like a 16-year-old. She has some pretty heavy trauma from her past that she’s never confronted, and she has a very high-stress job that needs her constant full attention. Alice’s POV was by far my favorite. Connie’s provided some important backstory, but I wasn’t a fan of Alexis at all.

I’m such a fan of Debbie Babitt’s prose. First Victim was very well-written, with short chapters that flowed nicely and at a good pace. The book was thrilling from the start–I love a courtroom setting and was eager to hear about Young’s case, and was even more hooked once things took a turn for the worse for Alice.

Make sure you’re paying attention when you get to the end: I needed to re-read a few sections to make sure I was understanding how the threads came together. A certain flashback of Alice’s is repeated a few times, with more information at each pass. At some points it was hard to tell which was actually happening, but I thought that was a great way of illustrating Alice’s confusion.

There were a couple of questions that were left unanswered for me at the very end, but overall the story was enjoyable and engaging.

Check out my review of Debbie Babitt‘s previous book, Saving Grace.

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