Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Review of LAW & DISORDER by Mary Jane Maffini

By Mary Jane Maffini
Rendezvous Crime, $16.95

Review by Cindy Chow

Everyone loves a dead lawyer joke. Until real lawyers end up dead.

Ottawa victim’s advocate attorney Camilla MacPhee was anxiously awaiting the conviction of Lloyd Brugel, especially after her client committed suicide soon after testifying and being grilled by Brugel’s sleazy lawyer, Rollie Thorsten. When Thorsten turns up shot dead and dumped in the Rideau River, Camilla assumes that it’s just another way of Brugel delaying his court sentence. She changes her mind when her favorite client, reformed art thief Bunny Mayhew, turns up on her doorstep with the news that he’s been receiving letters containing lawyer jokes, followed by notes naming a recently deceased attorney. Due to the easily distracted and borderline incompetent assistant her father saddled with her with, Camilla discovers that she also had unknowingly been receiving the same “warnings.” When the police disregard her suspicions, Camilla recruits her computer savvy senior citizen friend to help investigate and prevent further deaths. Her assistant Alvin Ferguson both aids and hinders her as he prepares for the arrival of Camilla’s boyfriends daughters, whom Camilla was unaware would be staying at her house. A bulldog of a real estate agent, determined to help Camilla sell an unwanted inheirtence, adds complications as Camilla attempts to discover what ties all of the deceased attorneys together and who may have it in for her, her client, and the law profession.

A hilarious contrast to the morose, disillusioned, lawyers of John Grisham, Camilla proves to be a delightful, impetuous, impulsive, and occasionally irrational character who bulldozes her way through in order to help her friends. A short, dark, changeling in a family of tall, svelte, blonde, sisters, Camilla dodges their attempts to meddle in her life as she copes with the arrival of her love interest’s daughters who also have a history of interference. The characters and intricate plot keep the pace of the novel moving quickly, and a rather unorthodox observation by Camilla provides her with a completely unexpected solution. This fourth in the Camilla MacPhee series will have readers eager for the next, if only to see if her life will ever get less complicated.

Friday, June 4, 2010

"Identity Crisis": A Sam McRae Mystery By Debbi Mack

Check out Cindy Chow's review of IDENTITY CRISIS by Debbi Mack

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"Identity Crisis": A Sam McRae Mystery
By Debbi Mack
Quiet Storm Publishing, 2005
ISBN: 978-0-557-08325-1, $15.99
Review by Cindy Chow
A domestic violence case turns deadly for Maryland attorney Stephanie Ann “Sam” McRae, but not in the way that would be expected. This time, it’s the abuser who’s been shot dead, with the police and an FBI agent wanting to know the location of Sam’s client Melanie Hayes, who has just gone missing. To further upset Sam’s life, she just barely escaped having her own identity stolen by an imposter applying for a credit card in her name.
Feeling responsible for her client and then hired by Melanie’s boss, Sam investigates Melanie’s home and the dead man’s life, discovering that Melanie’s Ex worked at a strip club and seemed to have been falling apart mentally at the end up of his life. Teaming up with a private investigator who served papers on Melanie alleging that she was involved in identity theft cases, Sam gets herself involved in more trouble than she could ever expected.
For a first novel, Identity Crisis is very well-written and reads smoothly with a plot that is tied up satisfactorily if not neatly. Sam herself proves to be complicated and somewhat ethically flexible. She’s unwilling to break a federal law by opening an envelope that was sent to a post office box rented out illegally in her own name, yet swipes the appointment book from her missing client’s home and even breaks into the office of a strip club after hours. She has a married lover, one who is on the opposing side of her legal case. More disturbing for me though, is that she’s beaten so severely by mafia-types wanting to know information that she spends a week in the hospital and yet neglects to reports the attack to either the police or her district attorney boyfriend. It’s a plot hole that had me seriously questioning Sam’s judgment as a member of the bar.
However, this novel did keep me completely riveted to the end and truly had me liking Sam, her humor, and her dedication to her client. Sam is realistically flawed, and this just makes her all the more relatable to those who may be jaded by tough-talking, cynical detectives. Sam deserves another outing soon that will show her growth as a person, an attorney, and as an investigator. Readers will be rewarded by another appearance of a Sam McRae mystery.