Chad Zunker’s ‘An Unequal Defense’ Inspires and Entertains [REVIEW]

Homeless man in Austin, Texas

When one of Austin’s homeless is accused of murder, young attorney David Adams comes to his rescue. (Photo by Dustin Ground, Flickr)

A man awakens disoriented and confused. He’s wearing clothes he doesn’t recognize. He’s holding a gun he’s never seen before. And in front of him is the body of a man he swears he didn’t kill. Will anyone believe him? Find out in Chad Zunker’s latest novel, An Unequal Defense.


Thomas & Mercer

Attorney David Adams used to have a job at one of the hottest law firms in Austin and a swanky pad of his own. These days, however, he’s sleeping on an old sofa in a dingy law office and taking showers at the gym around the corner, defending clients who can’t pay.

One night, a homeless man named Doc disturbs his slumber and implores him to go talk to a man named Rebel who has been accused of murder. When he discovers that the victim is one of his old law school buddies, he doesn’t want to touch the case. All David can think about is the fact that the deceased was just starting out and has left behind his young family.

Against his better judgment, David goes to see Rebel in jail, and what he finds doesn’t fill him with hope. Rebel may be Hollywood handsome, but he’s also homeless, mentally unstable, thinks the CIA is out to get him, and suffers from blackouts. If David does take on the case, how can he possibly build a winning defense against all that? But with assistance from a fellow counselor and a ragtag group of street people ready to help, there just might be a snowball’s chance in Texas of pulling a rabbit out of the proverbial hat. If successful, it would be a feat that would make Houdini envious.

In An Unequal Defense, Zunker’s second legal thriller featuring the enigmatic David Adams, we are taken down the dark streets of Austin and into a world where homeless people exist in the shadows, a world few of us know much about. There are several things to admire here, from Zunker’s deft characterizations to his masterful plotting and taut pacing. It is no wonder that we’ve previously called this author the heir apparent to John Grisham. He writes so well we can’t stop turning pages and simply have to find out what happens to characters we come to actually care about and believe in.

In a recent Instagram video, Zunker says he models his protagonist after Atticus Finch, which is easy to see. Adams is willing to sacrifice everything in order to save the disenfranchised, even to his own detriment. That kind of altruism is refreshing, particularly now, and it gives us the kind of old-fashioned hero we are happy to cheer for, one we might picture a young Jimmy Stewart portray on the silver screen.

Zunker’s handling of the homeless population in this story is both honest and sympathetic, and therefore elicits our own compassion for their plight. Throughout the novel, he invites us to actually see them, not as vagrants but as people, and this book accomplishes what all great fiction does: it inspires us to want to make a difference ourselves, to amend the way we view mental illness, and to improve the way our system cares for the homeless in any way we can.

When we read An Equal Justice, we knew both Zunker and Adams were something special. That’s why it came as no surprise when that book was nominated for this year’s Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. But the second installment in the series, An Unequal Defense, is just as powerful, and Zunker proves that he’s honing his writing chops with each new chapter in Adams’ story. If you are looking for a novel that will lift you up even as it entertains you, this is the book you need to read now.

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Chad Zunker

Chad Zunker


Chad Zunker studied journalism at The University of Texas, where he was also on the football team. He’s worked for some of the most powerful law firms in the country and invented baby products that are now sold all over the world.

He has wanted to write full time since he took his first practice hit as a skinny freshman walk-on from a 6’5, 240 pound senior All-American safety — which crushed both him and his feeble NFL dreams.

He lives in Austin with his wife, Katie, and their three daughters, where he is hard at work on his next novel.

To find out more, visit, like the author on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

By Chad Zunker
251 pp. Thomas and Mercer. $15.95

Purchase An Unequal Defense direct from Jathan & Heather’s Beach Reads Book Shop or from one of these other fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Half Price Books, IndieBound, and Powell’s.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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