#TXReads: Chad Zunker Hails the Homeless in “An Unequal Defense”


Chad Zunker’s latest novel is akin to John Grisham’s “The Street Lawyer” as the Austin author wraps a thought-provoking legal thriller around the American homeless crisis.

Intriguingly, “An Unequal Defense” (Thomas & Mercer), Zunker’s second in his David Adams series, pits big money and power against society’s most vulnerable.

Big-hearted protagonist David Adams grew up in poverty but graduated with honors from Stanford Law. Hired by a power-broker law firm in Austin, he’d finally secured success and the wealth that would follow. But after a homeless man helps him uncover a conspiracy within the firm, Adams set out on his own.

Now, Adams primarily represents Austin’s homeless population. Before he’d died, the street preacher Benny had introduced Adams to men living in a homeless camp in the woods, and they’d become his friends. Doc, Bobby E. Lee, and LaRue comprise his “misfit legal team.” Former high school history teacher Doc is a “hell of a paralegal,” gifted in research. White-bearded Bobby E. Lee sits stoically in a Confederate uniform, guarding Adam’s office door and taking messages. The piano-playing kid LaRue canvasses the homeless population for information.

Adam’s clients can’t afford to pay much in fees, but he squeaks by, with his homeless friends assisting in his investigations. And it’s amazing how much the homeless observe, invisible to most people but always keeping a watchful eye.

Although normally handling routine misdemeanors, Doc asks Adams to represent Rebel, a 37-year-old mentally ill drifter accused of murdering an assistant district attorney. Although Rebel swears he didn’t commit the crime, Adams isn’t sure how he can afford to take the case—he’s so broke he lives on the couch in his tiny office, his practice on the verge of bankruptcy, and the victim is Adam’s close friend from law school.

But the more he talks to Rebel, the more he believes the man is innocent. As evidence against his client mounts, Adams is convinced things aren’t what they seem. He discovers that local government is manipulating the investigation, and he struggles to gather evidence before more deaths occur, including Rebel’s. Can Adams and his unlikely legal team of Austin’s homeless uncover the conspiracy in play?

Read the rest of my review in Texas Lifestyle Magazine.

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