“I didn’t kill him.” This persistent refrain comes from Hope’s client but on each occasion of her affirmation the surrounding circumstances in her sto...more“I didn’t kill him.” This persistent refrain comes from Hope’s client but on each occasion of her affirmation the surrounding circumstances in her story change in a Roshomon-like manipulation of the truth.
His client, Lainie Commins, is suing a toy company for violation of copyright, claiming she had come up with the idea of a cross-eyed bear whose eyes were corrected when specially designed toy glasses were put on. When the owner of the toy company is murdered, suspicion falls on Lainie, especially when she doesn’t deny having gone to his yacht that evening and numerous witnesses placed her at the scene around the time of the murder.
Hope is hampered by the absence of his normal detective operatives, Warren and Toots. In a parallel story, Warren has kidnapped Toots, who has become a crack addict, and much against her will, taken her out on a boat, some thirty miles out to sea, where she remains handcuffed to a bracket in Warren’s attempt to get her to kick the drug “cold turkey.”
There are actually three parallel stories going on although not necessarily concurrently: Hope’s experience in the hospital escaping from a coma and his subsequent recovery after being shot; Warren’s efforts to “cold turkey” Toots; and the investigation of the Toyland boss’s murder.
I like the way McBain writes and lays out the story, often in a matter-of-fact manner but vivid manner. His description of the intensity of an addict’s cravings seems so real one wonders if he had some personal knowledge.
Downgraded from 4 stars only because I didn't think the multiple story lines worked that well. (less)
Another in the fine Rachel Gold series featuring the very fat and obscene but extremely bright and loyal Benny. Rachel is hired by Sally to handle her...moreAnother in the fine Rachel Gold series featuring the very fat and obscene but extremely bright and loyal Benny. Rachel is hired by Sally to handle her divorce, something Rachel has sworn not to do. But Sally displays the marks of having been beaten and turns up dead the next day. As her last attorney of record, Rachel is hired to handle the trust and reassign Sally’s clients
I love some of the word play. For example: I gave him a cynical look. “Are you planning to impress her with the size of your epistemology?” “Hey, woman, as Manny Kant once said, it’s not the length of your metaphysics, it’s the quality of your categorical imperatives.” “I love when you philosophy guys talk dirty.”
I won’t say more but to note the title is a pun and gall stones play a role. 3.5 stars, but only because I don’t think it’s quite as good as the preceding titles.(less)
An innocent man is executed, and a guilty man is set free. Grippando gets things off to a fast start.
Jack Swytek is estranged from his father, now th...moreAn innocent man is executed, and a guilty man is set free. Grippando gets things off to a fast start.
Jack Swytek is estranged from his father, now the governor, who had been elected on a law-and-order platform, promising to expedite executions. Barely two hours before the electrocution of Fernandez, Jack is visited by a man in a ski mask who, insisting on lawyer-client confidentiality, shows him proof that Fernandez is innocent because he, himself, is the killer.
Jack heads for the governor’s mansion where he and his father face off about the impending execution. Insisting he cannot provide proof of the man’s innocence because of client confidentiality (personally, I would have broken it immediately, self-serving lawyer ethics be damned) Jack is unable to convince his father to call it off.
Shift to a few years later as Jack manages to get a killer’s confession thrown out and the jury releases Goss, a vicious killer. Then Goss is killed and the governor and Jack are being setup for his murder. Usually, in a case like this, the premise is undermined by illogical actions of the characters. Grippando has avoided that by making the rationale for why Jack and his father can’t communicate, quite plausible.
The best legal dramas have great courtroom scenes. Unfortunately, the courtroom scenes were but a small portion of the book. The plot is ingenious and tricky, although how the killer manages to be in some of those places had me buffaloed. And I knocked off a star for a ludicrous ending. I had hoped for something much more subtle and intelligent.(less)
Enjoyable read. I was a bit disconcerted at first by the backstory backflips which seemed to interfere with the progression of the plot. But, you get...moreEnjoyable read. I was a bit disconcerted at first by the backstory backflips which seemed to interfere with the progression of the plot. But, you get used to them, and they fit stylistically after a while.
Three major characters: Micah Grayson, a new associate at Sullivan & Adler, Raphael Bianco, his mentor, a jaded 7th year associate struggling to become partner, and Gabe Weiss, a partner known as Lord Vader, who has just killed his wife’s lover.
Really a riveting story. I’ll read more from this author. One wonders of the character of Micah has more than a few autobiographical elements for the author. He is an attorney from Kentucky who clerked for a judge and then moved to New York to work for a large law firm. The legal profession gets little respect from lawyers who turn to fiction, not to mention non-fiction. It’s truly depressing. (less)
It begins with an innocent enough conversation. Andrew Morrison, lawyer extraordinaire, has been invited on a yacht by Nelson St. James and his beauti...moreIt begins with an innocent enough conversation. Andrew Morrison, lawyer extraordinaire, has been invited on a yacht by Nelson St. James and his beautiful wife for the weekend. A strange thing happens when Danielle, St, James’s wife kisses him and wonders why he doesn’t remember her. It’s only after a visit with an old friend from college, Terry Larson, an ex-prosecutor in Los Angeles, who had been investigating St. James, that Terry tells him Danielle is actually Janine Llewelyn, the little sister of a girl Morrison had wanted to marry, but who had turned down his proposal (much to her later consternation.)
Terry had left the US Attorney’s office in frustration. He had been building a case against St. James. He had evidence that the manipulative billionaire had swindled many people. He was sure St. James was soon to be indicted and urged Morrison not to take his case if asked. Sure enough the indictment is handed up, but St. James disappears on his boat. Then, several months later the boat arrives in San Francisco. St. James is dead, murdered by his wife the cops insist, and Danielle wants Morrison to defend her against the murder charge.
The charges are all based on circumstantial evidence. The body had gone overboard, the gun had the prints of both husband and wife, no one saw the killing, and Morrison did a wonderful job of planting all sorts of doubt in the minds of the jurors. Even the monetary motive disappeared when Morrison got St. James’s attorney to reveal the will had been changed so that if he died his wife would get nothing, whereas if he divorced her, the prenuptial would have left her comfortable indeed. He rests the defense but then Danielle drops a bombshell. She has told Morrison over and over that she had indeed killed her husband and now she insists, against his counsel, she wants to testify. “I know what I’m doing,” she says.
Buffa has written a fine tale that draws you in. Just remember the title is in the plural.(less)
I found this book in a list of recommended courtroom dramas. It's really good.
Warren Blackburn is trying to rehabilitate his law career after signing...moreI found this book in a list of recommended courtroom dramas. It's really good.
Warren Blackburn is trying to rehabilitate his law career after signing his name to an affidavit that contains information he knows is false. He was trying to help someone get a lighter sentence, believing the man's sob story about needing to stay out of jail to help his kids. Turns out it was bullshit. Warren was lucky to get off with a year's suspension and and probation.
Now having to resort to scrounging up whatever cases the judges will throw at him to defend indigent clients, he stumbles on a capital case, which, on the surface appears to be a prosecutorial wet dream and should plead out quickly. Problem is his client is innocent of the murder of the Vietnamese man who was killed in a fit of road rage. We're given that up front. He’s been seen committing the murder. Of course, we all know about eyewitness testimony: “As for Siva Singh, Warren saw her as a sincere woman who believed in law and order and wanted to help the police. Eyewitnesses were always so sure of what they had seen. Once they had committed themselves to a story, they had a vested interest in keeping to it. Most eyewitnesses don’t have time to tell red from green or short from tall. They make it up later, without realizing it. Everyone seemed to know that except juries.”
And then Warren is offered second chair in a big murder case where the client is most certainly guilty. Under pressure from the judge to settle this slam-dunk-for-the-prosecution case, Warren is soon faced with having to take over the big case when the lead attorney dies of a stroke.
The case involves the murder of her husband by a rich woman suspected of having been involved in several other murders. She's claiming self-defense, that her husband attacked her with a poker so she had to shoot him. But one evening during a practice session for the trial she reveals her hatred for Asians, and Warren happens to see some peculiar damage on the front of her car. Damage that could possibly link his two cases together and put him in a horribly awkward position.
Books that present characters with a real moral dilemma are always more interesting than those that don't. This book has a doozy. The outcome is quite satisfactory.(less)
Hmmmm. How to describe the first chapter of this book. Rachel has moved to St. Louis where she has started a new firm. Her first client is, well, how...moreHmmmm. How to describe the first chapter of this book. Rachel has moved to St. Louis where she has started a new firm. Her first client is, well, how shall we put this. The case involves a will, an irate wife, fellatio, Big Macs with special sauce, Golden Showers, Visa statements, and the threat of photographs. It’s also very funny.
Although she has sworn never to take another divorce case, Rachel is persuaded by Anne, her sister, to help Eileen Landau. As she soon learns, Eileen is having an affair with Andros, a local fitness instructor, otherwise spelled g.i.g.o.l.o. When Andros turns up dead in a hotel room where he and Eileen were having a tryst and Eileen admits she skipped after watching him in the throes of being poisoned, Rachel knows she has a problem, especially since Eileen took along Andros’s briefcase that contained some rather explicit pictures of the two of them. But it turns out that Rachel’s sister is also in a photo album kept by the dead man and she is charged with his murder.
Rachel’s investigation begins to turn up all sorts of complications. Good mystery. Light on the legal side. Benny continues to amuse and delight. To wit: (pun intended)
“Probably because normal people believe that a bowel movement is a private act,” I said.
Benny clicked off the flashlight and closed his book. “And sex isn’t?”
“Yeah, but sex sells books.”
“I’m not just talking hot-sex junk fiction,” he said. “I’m talking front page of the New York Times Book Review fiction. I’m talking Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, John Updike, Alice Hoffman. You’ve got people shtupping like crazy in those books. Blow jobs, hand jobs, rim jobs—you name it.”
I shrugged. “Maybe the authors think that a sexual encounter is a way to reveal something about a character’s personality.”
He gave me an astounded look. “And taking a dump isn’t?”(less)
Excellent story. I am becoming a big fan of Michael Kahn and Rachel Gold. In this second of the series, Rachel is again hired by her old firm to repre...moreExcellent story. I am becoming a big fan of Michael Kahn and Rachel Gold. In this second of the series, Rachel is again hired by her old firm to represent one of their clients since they have a potential conflict of interest. The firm's St. Louis managing partner, Stoddard Anderson, committed suicide, his body having been found in a hotel near the airport following a four day period when he was completely missing.
There is a quirk in Missouri law that prevents an insurance company from not paying out a life insurance claim in case of suicide, but the insurance company need not pay an accidental death rider if the deceased was sane at the time of his death. If he was ruled insane, or not in his right mind, then the death could be ruled accidental so Rachel has the difficult task of deciding for the widow, her client, if Anderson was insane at the time when he slit his wrists. His firm certainly does not want the possibility that their managing partner was insane raised in the press. That might not go well with clients. The insurance policy had a triple indemnity rider in case of accidental death. “If he was insane at the time he committed suicide, then his death would be deemed an accident under Missouri law, and the carrier would have to pay an additional one-point-four million dollars in death benefits.” The case gets even more bizarre when Rachel discovers that Stoddard might have been instrumental in smuggling an ancient Mexican artifact worth millions.
I love Kahn’s cynical view of the law. Here’s his take on insurance law: “There are trial lawyers out there—thousands—who make their living litigating the meaning of terms in insurance policies. One of the mysteries of the law is the way that basic words—words as hard and precise as cut diamonds—become warm saltwater taffy when inserted at critical points in insurance policies. Because millions of dollars can hinge on a court's explication of one of the Four Horsemen of the Insuring Clause—“sudden,” “unexpected,” “occurrence,” and “loss”—entire law firms have been built on the legal fees paid by insurance companies, to say nothing of the cottage industry of legal publishers and law school professors that have been feasting at the insurance trough for years.”
Benny is a great character who adds a nice scatological and humorous touch, and Rachel has a wonderful no-nonsense view of things. The way she handles two guys in a Porsche who hit on her is priceless.
Interestingly, in each of the Rachel Gold books I have read so far, there is a code that Rachel must solve to get to the bottom of the mystery. My only complaint, and it’s a small one, is that there is more mystery than legal drama, but I quibble. Good series. (less)
Rachel is hired by the managing partner of her old firm to find out who or what is "Canaan." At issue is the execution the will of a recently deceased...moreRachel is hired by the managing partner of her old firm to find out who or what is "Canaan." At issue is the execution the will of a recently deceased (he died in flagrante) partner in the firm who had added a bizarre codicil to his will two years earlier. This addition provided for the maintenance of Canaan's grave, which happened to be in a pet cemetery, yet to the best of everyone's knowledge, he had never owned a pet.
Kahn has woven an intriguing plot related to a book written by someone who had attended Barrett College that purports to relate the story of a lottery in a town that ceased to exist. The story flows well and keeps the pages turning. My only quibble was Paul, Rachel’s erstwhile ex-boyfriend who happens along at a convenient time with a copy of the book (he was a Barrett graduate, also) even though his knowledge of it is explained adequately. I had hoped for a more satisfactory ending that might have involved some legal shenanigans rather than a moray eel. But it's Kahn's first and the legal end becomes more pronounced in later volumes.
Much like another of Kahn’s stories, this one also has a code as its key. It was hard to believe this was the first book by Kahn. Having read a couple out of order, I’m now going to read them all in the proper sequence. In this book, Rachel is still in Chicago, Benny has just been hired to teach, but Ozzie is still a presence. (less)
Having enjoyed Kahn's Trophy Widow, I poked around for some more Kahn books and downloaded this collection of three Rachel Gold stories. Nifty.
The fir...moreHaving enjoyed Kahn's Trophy Widow, I poked around for some more Kahn books and downloaded this collection of three Rachel Gold stories. Nifty.
The first involves a clever scheme by a Holocaust survivor, Mendel Sofer, to mimic a Jewish Seder custom involving breaking of the matzah. The larger piece of bread is known as the Afikomen and this piece is hidden. The smaller piece, the Lahma Anya, is also known as the Bread of Affliction. (I have to admit having forgotten all this stuff, but then I've only been to one seder, that of my high school buddy.) After dinner the children search for the hidden Afikomen and the finder gets a reward.
I won't say any more except that Sofer decided to hide an important part of his will. Without that part there was a chance the money would revert to some very distant relatives who, it just so happened, also happened to be Aryan Nation anti-semites. So Rachel has to puzzle out where the rest of the will might have been hidden.
The other two stories are equally compelling. The middle story has a prosaic subject. It’s a lawsuit between a dress designer and a rich matron who first bought and then returned a dress claiming she didn't like it. Words were exchanged and she is now suing for defamation. Rachel’s trick to get her client off was nifty but it also revealed the truth. The third story involves DNA, sperm deposits, a 26-year old wife and her 76 year-old husband, a blood-line trust, and mad relatives. How could you not be compelled to read that?
No murders, car chases, stabbings, airplane crashes or aliens. Just interesting characters and realistic legal stories. I liked them. I’ve bought all of the Rachel Gold books for my Kindle.(less)
It’s always fun to discover new authors, especially prolific ones, and so it seems with Michael Kahn. It’s especially interesting because his protagon...moreIt’s always fun to discover new authors, especially prolific ones, and so it seems with Michael Kahn. It’s especially interesting because his protagonist is a female lawyer and he seems to write well from the female perspective (although how I, a male, should have a clue, is problematic.) Excellent legal mystery novel (the courtroom scene in the case of the rampaging ostrich was a hoot.) I liked the way the investigation was spelled out and even learned some real estate law.
This book has a great set of characters and some quite humorous scenes that always makes a read enjoyable.
Rachel Gold: Our heroine, a St. Louis, Harvard lawyer, who’s also rather smashing (of course.) She’s got a hot boyfriend, a widower, who happens to be orthodox Jewish (she’s Reform) so she (and we) get some instruction on the role of the orthodox Jewish wife. Rachel thinks most of the Orthodox rules and rituals are medieval superstitions. Professor Benny: Rachel’s good friend, foil, and comic relief. My favorite character. Angela Green: Convicted killer of her husband Michael Green. Rachel is Angela’s attorney in a Son of Sam suit. Rachel is perplexed by some anomalies in the trial record. Samantha Cummins: Michael’s squeeze and his intended replacement forAngela. She owns and runs the 309 Gallery. She has bizarre connections to many movers and shakers in St. Louis through the sale of paintings by Sebastian Curry, a mediocre artist at best. She is the mother of Trent, party through “equitable adoption” in the Son of Sam suit. “Ellen McNeil had described him as eye candy. That was an understatement. Sebastian Curry was a hot fudge sundae with whipped cream and, well, nuts.” Sebastian Curry: the aforementioned artist who happens to be a real hunk. His paintings Samantha sold at the gallery for ten times their actual worth. Millenium Management: a company that seems to exist only on paper and which no one wants to talk about, but which was getting a 40% commission on Sebastian’s paintings. Oasis Shelter: a battered woman’s shelter, also a client of Rachel’s. Their property is a thorn in the side of Nate Turner, a commissioner trying to bring redevelopment to St. Louis. Harry Silver: ex-English professor (fired for screwing the wife of the department chair not to mention one of the chair’s students. He’s a big fan of Trollope and now a successful businessman producing porn. “I certainly didn’t earn my degree to enlist as a foot soldier in Jacques Derrida’s poststructuralist/postmodernist deconstructionist brigade. So I finally said fuck it. I tried film criticism for about a year, but there’s no money in that, and most of the films I love date back several decades. Newspaper readers want a review of this year’s version of Pretty Woman, not an essay on the use of irony in The Philadelphia Story. So I decided to quit writing about the latest chick-flick and started making my own versions. I tried the independent film route. That’s a one-way ticket to oblivion. Fade out. Cut to interior—Pinnacle Productions.” He gestured grandly. “And here I am: the Prince of Porn.” Billy Woodward: One of Harry’s erstwhile actors who just happens to commit suicide in front of Samantha’s house. Just what was his relationship to Samantha? He also happens to be the mysterious “John” who Angela claimed was her alibi for the night of the murder. His nickname was “Rouphe.” (Hint) Jacki: Rachel’s secretary: “Standing six feet three and weighing close to two hundred and forty pounds, with plenty of steelworker muscles rippling beneath her size 22 shirtwaist dress, she was surely the most intimidating legal secretary in town. And also one of the best. I’d call her my girl Friday, except that anatomically she was still a he—and would so remain until next summer, when she would undergo the surgical…”
Some funny vignettes. For example, she goes to Chicago to meet with the other lawyers hired by the parties to the suit. “I spent two hours watching the alpha dogs take turns marking their territory as their entourages looked on approvingly. Harvey Silverberg staked out the First Amendment high ground, subjecting us to an eye-glazing summary of the three “seminal decisions” in the field, all of which, coincidentally enough, featured Hefty Harvey as lead counsel for the victors. Next came Nelson Liberman, who lifted his hind leg and sprayed us with a discourse on the importance of burying the other side in a blizzard of motions and discovery requests. Then it was Hammerin’ Hank’s turn. He sniffed around the perimeter and spouted a lengthy reenactment of his cross-examination.”
I was a bit reluctant to read this book by Stephen Greenleaf. I’ve been reading my way through his entire Marsh Tanner series (excellent) and this is...moreI was a bit reluctant to read this book by Stephen Greenleaf. I’ve been reading my way through his entire Marsh Tanner series (excellent) and this is a stand-alone. (There is an oblique mention of Tanner on page 295 that was fun.) Often that means a letdown for the reader used to a particular set of characters. Not so in this case. I was hooked from the beginning.
The plot revolves around the crash of Surfair 617, a relatively new aircraft that collided with a small private plane. (Shades of an actual crash near Los Angeles between an Aeromexico DC-9 and a Piper Cherokee just a few years before this was written, and if the book has any flaws it’s perhaps the somewhat preachy concerns over flight safety pronounced by Alex Hawthorne.)
The cast of characters includes Alex’s partner, Martha, who keeps him on schedule, organized and satisfied (if you know what I mean.) Keith Tollison, another lawyer, is having an affair with Laura Donahue, husband of Jack, who is terribly injured in the crash. (He was sitting next Carol with whom he was having an affair who happened to be the Brenda’s sister.) He may be permanently paralyzed and neurologically impaired.. Tollison is in an on-again, off-again relationship with Brenda. Brenda has a mentally handicapped son who is devastated by his aunt’s death. All of these people come together in a nicely done courtroom drama. Yes, it’s a bit of a soap, but well done.
Greenleaf was trained as a lawyer so the legal aspects appear quite authentic. Something I found less so, was the conversation between the Air Traffic Controllers and the doomed plane before the crash. I’m a train and plane junkie so naturally I listen to ATC (you can stream it over the internet) for fun. (I often chose to fly United because they broadcast cockpit/ATC communications over channel 9.) ** The book’s rendering of those transmissions did not ring true. No matter.
I was a bit disappointed in this book, hoping that it would be a legal battle. I love well-written courtroom scenes. Instead it was a mish-mash of rom...moreI was a bit disappointed in this book, hoping that it would be a legal battle. I love well-written courtroom scenes. Instead it was a mish-mash of romance and investigation with just a wee bit of courtroom work on a case that was peripheral to the main plot.
Betty's husband, John, is attacked and killed one evening, in their trailer. Betty and John were apparently Sabre's good friends, although there is little evidence (back-story) of that friendship. Mostly we just take her word for it. Sabre, our legal-beagle heroine (very attractive, of course) is being wooed by Luke (he is a hunk, of course,) but she's also lusted after by her JP, her P.I., who seems to be the most competent individual in the story, not to mention Bob, a legal colleague. The story twists here and there as Sabre realizes that Betty is not telling her the truth and nothing is it appears. I was disappointed in the ending which seemed to be antithetical to the story being told by the killer.
I don't mean to be too negative because the story did hold my interest, and the writing is competent. According to her bio, Teresa Burrell is an attorney whose practice is largely devoted to juvenile court and now, semi-retired is focused on promoting children's issues. Sabre is supposed to be a child advocate, so I think the book would have been much better had she built a plot around some child advocacy issue as they did on the better shows of The Guardian before it devolved into melodramatic soap between the characters. Perhaps her other books do. 2.576 stars.
Andy Barber is the chief ADA in a small town when one of the students at his son's school is found knifed to death. When his son is charged with the m...moreAndy Barber is the chief ADA in a small town when one of the students at his son's school is found knifed to death. When his son is charged with the murder, his world is upended.
Andy makes every effort to protect his son. He knows the system and that’s what scares him. “You imagine the courts are reliable, that wrong results are rare, and therefore I ought to have trusted the system.. . Here’s the dirty little secret: The error rate in criminal verdicts is much higher than anyone imagines. Not just false negatives, the guilty criminals who get off scot-free–those errors we recognize and accept…The real surprise is the frequency of false positives, the innocent men found guilty. . .Our blind trust in the system is the product of ignorance and magical thinking, and there was no way I was going to trust my son’s fate to it. Not because I believed he was guilty, I assure you, but precisely because he was innocent.” And there’s a long history of violence in Andy’s family. The pressures on the family mount as *all* of their relationships bend and many break under the strain of the accusation. Andy's father is in prison for murder. Is there such a thing as a "violence gene"?
Landay has written a very compelling story, nicely integrating current technology and how kids use it, that plays on every parents' fears. Just how well do we know out children? You get a real sense of the pressure on the family, the ostracizing by the community, and the doubt that creeps into the minds of the parents.
First rate. Great book for a discussion group of nature/nurture, parental responsibility, child relationships, the legal system, a host of things.(less)