Book Review: Deadfall by Linda Fairstein

An Alexandra Cooper Novel #19
Linda Fairstein
Dutton, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-1019-8404-8

Still reeling from her harrowing experience in the preceding novel in the series, Alex Cooper may have reason to be portrayed in Deadfall as the weak, wishy-washy female rather than the forceful prosecutor she has been in this long-running story, in which this is the 19th entry.  But it doesn’t seem to be in character. Yes, she has always enjoyed a drink.  But to almost become an alcoholic?  And to be warned and even forced to stop drinking? Sure, there is some justification when her boss and mentor, DA Battaglia, is shot in the head on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and falls on Alex, pushing her to the ground beneath him. But until now we have been led to believe she is made of stronger stuff.  Or perhaps she is changing as the result of her love affair with Mike Chapman, her detective boyfriend.

Be that as it may, the DA’s assassination sets off not only a murder investigation, but a much more complicated look into an international crime based on importation of narcotics and valuable animal parts, like ivory tusks, rhino horns and bones.  As part of their investigation, Alex and Detectives Mike and Mercer visit the Bronx Zoological Park, to learn more about the organization running it and the society charged with helping preserve endangered species, as well as giving the author the opportunity to exhibit her deep research into another New York City landmark.

The plot is so complicated that some readers may be put off by the book.  While the denouement is not so far fetched, it takes Ms. Fairstein several twists and turns to get there, although the conclusion is pretty much a forgone conclusion almost from the start. Probably a little simplification could have prevented making the reader work through the various machinations Alex and Mike are put through.  It’s a tough way to finally get a Dewar’s on ice.


Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2017.

Book Review: The Last Good Girl by Allison Leotta—and a Giveaway!

The Last Good GirlThe Last Good Girl
Anna Curtis #5
Allison Leotta
Touchstone, May 2016
ISBN 978-1-4767-6111-4

From the publisher—

It was her word against his…until she disappeared.

Emily Shapiro has gone missing. A freshman at a Michigan university, Emily was last seen leaving a bar near Beta Psi, a prestigious and secretive fraternity. The main suspect is Dylan Highsmith, the son of one of the most powerful politicians in the state. At first, the only clue is pieced-together surveil­lance footage of Emily leaving the bar that night…and Dylan running down the street after her.

When prosecutor Anna Curtis discovers a video diary Emily kept during her first few months at college, it exposes the history Emily had with Dylan: she accused him of rape before disappearing. Anna is horrified to discover that Dylan’s frat is known on campus as the “rape factory.”

The case soon gets media attention and support from Title IX activists across the country, but Anna’s investigation hits a wall. Anna has to find something, anything she can use to discover Emily alive. But without a body or any physical evidence, she’s under threat from people who tell her to stop before she ruins the name of an innocent young man.

Inspired by real-life stories, The Last Good Girl shines a light on campus rape and the powerful emotional dynamics that affect the families of the men and women on both sides.

There are a handful of women who are former sex crimes prosecutors and have made use of their knowledge and expertise to create compelling protagonists and series featuring such crimes. Allison Leotta is one of the best and, with each book, I think she gets better. That, of course, is as it should be.

Anna Curtis is such an appealing character that she alone can draw me back; she’s intelligent, focused but not driven, compassionate towards the victims and passionate about giving them justice. Anna isn’t perfect and that makes her all the more human. When the investigation into Emily’s disappearance reveals that she had claimed that Dylan raped her, Anna is determined to do what’s right by the girl.

Campus rape has become more and more publicized in recent years and, in many cases, it’s a he said/she said situation. Ms. Leotta has crafted a storyline that brings this crime even more to the fore, largely by making her characters so vivid, so alive, that I literally felt the fear and anger that a friend of Emily would feel upon learning what had happened to her. What makes it even worse is the uncertainty that so frequently occurs when the young man involved may or may not actually be guilty and, yet, his future is in dire jeopardy. Add to that the privileged status of Dylan and so many of his counterparts in real life and you have to wonder if true justice is even possible.

In Ms. Leotta‘s hands, this tale becomes so intriguing, with twists and turns everywhere, that I was riveted, unable to put the book down until sleep deprivation forced me to. Anna is up against time and some powerful adversaries who could easily destroy her career but finding out what really happened to Emily is paramount.  That search for the girl—and the truth—kept me fully engaged until the very end and I’m already wanting Anna’s next book 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2016.


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Book Review: A Matter of Trust by Lis Wiehl with April Henry

A Matter of TrustA Matter of Trust
A Mia Quinn Mystery #1
Lis Wiehl with April Henry
Thomas Nelson, March 2013
ISBN 978-1-59554-903-7


Recent widow Mia Quinn is on the phone with her friend and fellow prosecuting attorney Colleen Miller when Colleen is shot. Horrified, Mia hands the phone to her teenaged son, Gabe, telling him to listen in case Colleen is able to identify her killer, even as her life’s blood bubbles away. Mia herself rushes to her friend’s aid, but she is too late.

The DA assigns the murder case to Mia, where she will be assisted by detective Charlie Carlson, a man she doesn’t completely trust. Soon the pair are working together on more than the investigation into Colleen’s death. A case of bullying has ended a boy’s life in suicide and Mia is determined to make the bullies accountable. A bond begins to form between the two, until Charlie makes a confession that undermines Mia’s trust.

Meanwhile, Mia’s husband’s death has left her and her two children in severe financial straits. Her son is fourteen, just the age to go off the rails without sufficient supervision and attention. He’s also resentful of having to watch his little sister, who has night terrors.

A lot of the story is given over to Mia just trying to keep her and her children’s life together. A teaching colleague seems thrown into the plot just to provide a romantic issue. Charlie is given a few too many flaws for his role in the story, and I fear I got a bit impatient with Mia’s ineptitude concerning anything other than her job. The writing is good, the plot intricate, the action moves right along, and I loved how Gabe came through at the end.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, November 2015.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.


Book Review: Guilt By Degrees by Marcia Clark

Guilt By Degrees
Marcia Clark
Mulholland Books, May 2012
ISBN 9780316129534

Time for another trip into the wild country that is Los Angeles. From the mountains to Malibu, from the alleys to the beaches. And let’s not forget those fabulous restaurants. Prosecutor Rachel Knight takes on a case that will bring up old ghosts and reveal more skeletons than she’d like to see.

Seeing another prosecutor tank a case where the victim was homeless, Rachel Knight of the Special Trials Unit steps in to take charge. With investigator Bailey Keller as her partner, Knight uncovers the truth behind the killing. The victim was the brother of a cop who was murdered two years previously. The alleged murderess? His wife, Lilah, who was subsequently acquitted and almost immediately dropped from sight. Knight hops on the trail to track down Lilah. In her search, she uncovers secrets worth killing for. However, Knight doesn’t just have an old murder case to solve, she must face her own tragic history. As a child, she was witness to her sister’s kidnapping and disappearance. Knight’s current boyfriend brings up this past event which leads to an argument and a breakup. Rachel must deal with both personal problems and both personal and political attacks as she perseveres to bring a killer to justice.

Clark delivers another winner in the Rachel Knight saga. I enjoy the subplot with Knight’s sister. I’d love to know the outcome of that old case. I also love being driven around Los Angeles and it’s numerous suburbs to see the life and the culture. Clark‘s descriptions of the county jail to the Biltmore, to the eateries and residences are so true to life. I will definitely be looking forward to more Knight reading.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, March 2012.
Author of Night Shadows and Beta.

Book Review: Guilt by Association by Marcia Clark

Guilt by Association
Marcia Clark
Mulholland Books, March 2012
ISBN 9780316198967
Trade Paperback

Take a trip to Los Angeles, where prosecution has its own style. Written by one in the know (and how), Clark delivers up a double shot of high profile cases and a whole lot of trouble. Travel from the manses of the wealthy to the dive motels in the poorest neighborhoods. It’s L.A., baby, and it’s a whole ‘nother country.

After celebrating a victory with her coworkers in the Special Trials division of the District Attorney’s office, Rachel Knight walks home only to be distracted by sirens nearby. She discovers, to her horror, one of those friendly coworkers, Jake Pahlmeyer, being carried out on a stretcher, dead. Immediately, she is warned off the case, a potential murder/suicide with Jake allegedly killing a teenage prostitute, then himself. However, she soon has more to worry about when she is assigned the rape case of a wealthy doctor’s daughter. Investigating suspects in the rape she disobeys orders and continues to dig into Jake’s case. Her car being destroyed by graffiti and also being shot at doesn’t discourage Knight’s determination.

Rachel Knight is a drinker, a woman who wants desperately to watch her diet, and who’s afraid of starting up a new romance. Clark puts so much personality into Knight’s character, making her more than just a routine prosecutor. I enjoyed the dichotomy between the classes – wealthy versus poor, doctor versus foster mother, lavish hotel versus junkies’ haven. There is so much of Los Angeles here. With cynicism and tense action scenes, Guilt by Association thinks outside the jury box.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, March 2012.
Author of Night Shadows and Beta.