DEATH BENEFIT by David Heilbroner


A Lawyer Uncovers a Twenty-Year Pattern of Seduction, Arson, and Murder
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 The nail-biting tale of a female serial killer and the lawyer who dogged her to justice. Although Heilbroner is an attorney himself (three years in the Manhattan D.A.'s office, described in his excellent Rough Justice, 1990), the crusading lawyer here is one Steven Keeney, a prim, conservative tax attorney from Louisville. A tenderfoot at criminal law, Keeney finds himself knee-deep in a murder investigation when the victim's mother approaches him in church to ask for help in settling a life-insurance claim. It seems that the insurance company is balking with good reason: Another policy had been taken out on the victim just one day before her mysterious death in a fall off a cliff in Big Sur. Suspicion settles on the creepily nondescript Virginia McGinnis, mother of the beneficiary and landlady of the deceased. As Keeney sniffs around, horrifying revelations come to light. McGinnis's three-year-old daughter died of accidental hanging--if it was an accident; her husband and mother also succumbed in suspicious circumstances, and in each case McGinnis collected life insurance. She lived in six homes in 20 years, and all of them burned to the ground. Her sons turned out to be killers themselves (``Virginia McGinnis was not just a murderer herself: She bred murderers,'' intones Heilbroner). The melodrama reaches fever pitch as Heilbroner flashes back to McGinnis's miserable childhood, a muddy mix of poverty and abuse that helps explain her adult pathological behavior. As the case knits tighter, Keeney's law practice unravels. But he never gives up, and, after a suspenseful trial, McGinnis is convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole. Like a long but intense TV-movie (with even an extraneous love subplot between Keeney and a fellow lawyer thrown in): stock characters and real thrills. (Photos--not seen.)

Pub Date: Feb. 17th, 1993
ISBN: 0-517-58284-8
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Harmony
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1993


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