Romance and intrigue are back in this clever whodunit series installment.
As an ambitious 30-something lawyer, Jane Larson is still struggling to keep her practice afloat; she’s being threatened with eviction from her landlord, which means she could lose her late mother’s former law office forever. As she does her best to hold on to the practice, she’s faced with a new challenge when a client asks for her help in untangling a complex matrimonial legal matter. Desperate for money, Jane continues to take on odd clients until she gets entangled in multiple murder cases. What’s even more surprising is that a man named Gary, who’s at least a decade younger than her, keeps popping up in her life—and the closer they become, the harder it becomes for her to resist his amorous advances. The sequel to Weave a Murderous Web (2016) is set on New York City’s Upper East Side, and the metropolitan backdrop melds nicely with the dialogue’s “exquisite sarcasm,” as narrator Jane puts it. Married authors Rothman-Hicks and Hicks supply each character with a unique personality and clear motivations, which will help to keep readers guessing who committed the central crimes. In many ways, the book reads like a classic hard-boiled detective story, but the authors give it a delightfully modern twist. It’s an often dark and grisly tale of human wickedness, to be sure, but also one with welcome dashes of humor. The story takes several intriguing dives into Jane’s past that will help readers understand her more deeply as she frequently describes her dramatic but relatable family struggles.
A satisfying contemporary spin on a classic mystery genre.
Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2020
Page count: 244pp
Publisher: Melange Books
Review Posted Online: March 19, 2020
A middle-grade adventure finds a Central Park pigeon who can talk in the care of precocious youngsters.
On a hot July morning, 12-year-old Jennifer Tindal and her brother, 11-year-old James, visit Central Park. While Mrs. Tindal studies at home for the bar exam, Jennifer watches James and his allergy-prone friend, Seth (nicknamed Sleepy because he takes a lot of medication), at the playground. It’s here that a pigeon speaks to her in a British accent. His name is Arthur Whitehair, and he’s tied to a fence by balloon string (“Oh, for a pair of hands!” he cried dramatically. “My kingdom for a pair of hands!”). “Give me a break,” Jennifer mutters, trying to ignore what she assumes is a prank. Eventually, she unties the string rather than see the bird hurt himself. Then a hawk attacks, yelling, “Give me that pigeon!” Jennifer, James, and Sleepy escape with Whitehair through the vast park, learning that the hawk, Malman, has been after his quarry for 180 years. Can this bizarre situation have anything to do with the dreams Jennifer’s been having about a monk who speaks to her in Latin? After all, Omnia causa fiunt means “Everything happens for a reason.” In this raucous jaunt through Manhattan’s canopied centerpiece, Rothman-Hicks and Hicks (Kate and the Kid, 2016, etc.) educate and entertain. Younger readers learn facts about birds, such as they “are safe in a flock because the whole group of them moving...at once confuses the predator.” The authors’ trim prose often captures the loveliness of specific Central Park areas, like the Ramble, “famous for its many trees and bushes and hills, and trails that twisted around like over-cooked spaghetti.” As the narrative opens up to include Jennifer’s wealthy classmate Kaytlyn and a kind, homeless man, Mr. Bags, the audience benefits from the exploration of as many perspectives as possible. Scenes involving Malman’s awful partner, Drescher, are just menacing enough. The mystery surrounding Whitehair and his nemesis receives a quirky buildup and a heartwarming resolution. Readers should welcome sequels.
A learned, laugh-out-loud New York City fantasy for all ages.
Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2016
Page count: 220pp
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing
Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2017
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017
A sleuthing lawyer returns to the streets of New York in this mystery of drugs, murder, and financial skullduggery, the sequel to Praise Her, Praise Diana (2014).
A former pro bono attorney who once helped apprehend a serial killer, Jane Larson is now a rising star in corporate litigation at Adams & Ridge, a prominent New York City law firm. She’s still smarting from the abrupt departure of her boyfriend, David Bialo. The intense, time-consuming job is to blame, and she entertains second thoughts about her career. A lull in her workload and a legal assistant’s plea cause Jane to take over a case of unpaid alimony and child support after the plaintiff’s lawyer dies. Gail Hollings, Jane’s new client, is anything but sympathetic, but Gail’s former husband, Larry Hawkins, is worse. A small-time attorney who’s had his law license suspended, Larry may also be a drug dealer. After he’s found dead, a clear-cut professional hit, Jane discovers that Larry had stolen serious money from the mob. But where is it? Most disturbing is that several of Jane’s acquaintances, including David and her best friend, Lee, also knew Larry and maybe were his customers. Finding Larry’s client files becomes a race among Jane, the police, and the killer. Luckily she meets another lawyer, Bryan, who becomes a source of protection, and more. In this second Larson outing, the husband-wife team of Rothman-Hicks and Hicks (Kate and the Kid, 2016, etc.) has again produced a fast-paced, engaging story. The first-person narrative delivers both caustic wit and serious reflection. Jane is complex, nuanced, and utterly believable as a conflicted professional debating her life’s choices (“Yes, I have been known to throw things and come out with witty but rude remarks after a few too many drinks. However, I have never made myself a fool for love, and I didn’t intend to start now”). The writing is generally so smooth and taut that the occasional bumps—hackneyed language and unnecessary foreshadowing—are easily forgiven. The plot takes on perhaps excessive speed at the end; the riveting climactic scene involves a lot of characters appearing rather suddenly and a bit too conveniently. And, to tie things up, the financial machinations could have used more details and clarity as well. Yet, overall, this is a satisfying read.
An enjoyable romp involving a shady attorney and the mob that should make readers look forward to the next Jane Larson caper.
Pub Date: June 1, 2016
Page count: 218pp
Publisher: Melange Books
Review Posted Online: July 30, 2016
A small child’s obvious need puts a world-weary New Yorker in touch with her own vulnerability and capacity for love.
When she first meets young Jenny Gilmour, Kate Andersen has lost her publishing job and her high-powered lawyer boyfriend in the same week, and she is in no mood to be motherly. However, when her neighbor Sally McKean introduces her to the 6-year-old she is babysitting indefinitely, the strange, silent girl tugs at her sympathies, and, almost against her will, Kate finds herself reaching out to Jenny. The lonely child responds to Kate’s simple kindness and slowly emerges from her shell. Kate begins to get some freelance work, and her boyfriend, Roger, calls and apologizes. Just when Kate’s life seems to be back on track, Jenny’s past intrudes in the form of a scheming absentee mother and a gangster who claims to be her father. Determined to protect the child who has become important to her, Kate is drawn into legal problems, physical danger, and the threat of losing Roger again. This engrossing romantic adventure combines mystery and psychological drama in an intricate study of family relationships, economic class, and child abuse, the sometimes-casual portrayal of which is disturbing. Sally, who is presented as basically good-hearted, if rough around the edges, constantly refers to Jenny as “Creephead” and almost always curses at her. Rothman-Hicks and Hicks (Weave a Murderous Web, 2016, etc.) avoid offering simple solutions, and the characters are often the victims of circumstance as well as their own failings. An emotionally incisive ending sidesteps pat resolutions.
An absorbing story about both the supportive and destructive aspects of family entanglements.
Pub Date: April 16, 2016
Page count: 278pp
Publisher: Wings ePress
Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2016
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016
Gruesome revenge for rape jumps from fiction to real life in this multilayered thriller.
Best-selling author Maggie Edwards has recently finished writing a new book, but it’s not the one she promised her editor and publisher, who want to serialize it in their new weekly magazine, Femme. A mysterious caller named Diana has forced her to write about a woman, also named Diana, who takes vengeance on male rapists by killing them and cutting off their genitals. When the New York Portal publishes the first chapter without his approval, the publisher threatens to sue, but he changes his mind when a real, copycat Diana starts delivering bodies, creating a media frenzy. Who is this Diana, and what does she really want? Maggie’s lawyer, Jane, becomes a friend and then more to Maggie as the phone harassment continues, egging Maggie on to write new chapters about Diana and her horrific rape by two men. Diana gains the sympathy of women until the Eumenides, a radical feminist group, begins to emulate her, dressing alike and attacking and killing sexist males. As their relationship deepens, Jane discovers that Maggie has a secret, one she promises to reveal. The action moves from crime scene to courtroom to bedroom, but when a gang rape leads to a violent confrontation between police and the Eumenides, Maggie has to wrestle with her own past to reach a decision. The veteran writing team of Rothman-Hicks and Hicks (Things Are Not What They Seem, 2014, etc.) delivers a complex, topical thriller. Though the violence is indeed ghastly, memorable characters bring diversity and depth to the story. There are a few quite moving passages, and there is a palpable sense of loss on several levels. There are also bumps: The use of different points of view is effective but sometimes confusing. Some of the internal dialogue comes off as stilted and repetitive. And more detail is needed about how “Diana” gets her information.
A suspenseful tale of violence and loss.
Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2014
Page count: 369pp
Publisher: Melange Books, LLC
Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2014
Rothman and Hicks (Kate and the Kid, 2013, etc.) follow New York attorney Eve Petersen, who struggles to find connections among a disturbed female client with a mysterious past, the untimely deaths of many associated with the case and a serial rapist with a chilling M.O.
Eve, a corporate attorney, somewhat reluctantly takes over her dead mother’s messy legal cases; she had been a lawyer, too. She finds herself out of her depth when she agrees to represent Susan Clymer, a vulnerable young amnesiac who has recently come into a considerable inheritance. Having agreed to help the girl discover the truth about her parents and the early part of her childhood, Petersen soon discovers that, to keep the girl’s past a secret, someone is willing to kill. Meanwhile, both women become the target of a serial rapist calling himself The Gentleman Rapist, who thrives on dominating and humiliating independent, strong-willed victims. Things take an even stranger turn as Susan begins to experience recollections of a past life as a servant girl indentured to a Colonial master during the Revolutionary War. Eve attempts to guard Susan from all those who seem to take an unhealthy interest in her, such as high-profile psychic Madame Rosa, who encourages Susan’s fantastical past life regressions through hypnosis. As Eve gets closer to the truth, the body count rises, and The Gentleman Rapist continues to strike closer and closer to home. Eve is a complex, dynamic character, especially considering her relationship to her recently deceased mother, who had made a point in her own legal practice of pursuing justice for low-income and marginalized clients. Eve becomes increasingly intriguing as she moves further out of her comfort zone as a corporate lawyer to involve herself with the personal, dramatic and often ugly cases she once avoided. However, Rothman and Hicks’ busy and highly detailed subplots, such as those involving local political races or Colonial history, have a tendency to drag things down, while sudden and unlikely plot twists abound.
An engrossing, suspense-filled thriller with an intriguing protagonist.
Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2013
Page count: 290pp
Publisher: Barbarian Books
Review Posted Online: Aug. 9, 2015
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