A series of violent crimes in Boston casts suspicion on a group of friends in Kaplan’s debut mystery.
Keith Gallon, Larry Gallon, Dan Daniels, Sheryl Common, and Ben Freeman are core members of the Devil’s Jury, an informal social group that meets regularly for drinks, discussion, and a hearty dose of complaining. The group’s topics range from the broad (religion, politics, society) to the narrow (an endless local construction project that’s ruining everyone’s commutes). But the group’s casual venting seems more ominous after a worker is murdered at the construction site, apparently the victim of a sniper. Police detective Dahlia “Dizzy” Gillespie is on the case but struggles to find any leads. Soon, another subject of the group’s complaints winds up dead: greedy lawyer Carl Monroe, who made Larry’s divorce far lengthier, costlier, and angrier than it had to be. Assistant District Attorney Rob Latrobe teams up with Dizzy to investigate, which soon leads them to the Devil’s Jury, and they suspect that one or more of its members may be a killer. Meanwhile, the Jury struggles with its own internal strife, stemming from romantic complications among its members. After one of them dies and another disappears, Dizzy must follow the rest of the Devil’s Jury to find a possible murderer. The plot is an intriguing one, and both Rob and Dizzy are well-developed, likable characters; interludes featuring Rob and his sharp-witted wife, Kim, while technically unrelated to the plot, are sweetly written and enjoyable. The members of the titular Devil’s Jury, however, are less successfully drawn. Although the story provides background for each one of them, they remain indistinct enough that readers will find it easy to get them confused. The prose is often awkward and error-prone; the first chapter, for example, opens with the confusing line, “Some human activities go well, mean well, like the moon but can influence life, or even death,” and a later paragraph begins, “Dizzy helped Keith gather up his stuff, and subtly glancing through it.”
A whodunit with a solid premise, brought down by subpar writing and characterization.