A legal thriller that looks at the corrosive effects organized crime has on the moral compasses of normally well-intentioned people.
Millhollin’s third book (Brakus, 2014, etc.) draws deeply from his own mastery of the law: He was a practicing lawyer for 41 years. The sometimes sordid tale begins darkly, with a grizzled assassin stoically disposing of two men who had become liabilities to the crime family for which they worked. That killer for hire, Tommie Thompson, is then dispatched to Nashville to handle a delicate problem: Paul “Jake” McKay, the estranged son of the family’s head, has accidentally yet remorselessly killed a prostitute and now faces jail time. Thompson’s job is to ensure, one way or another, that McKay never sees the inside of a jail cell. Problematically, Thompson is charged with driving while intoxicated in Nashville, putting himself in legal jeopardy as well. Both cases are assigned to an up-and-coming lawyer, newly minted as a partner in her firm, Rosa Norway, who has devoted herself to her career to the exclusion of distracting personal entanglements. She finds herself enchanted by Judge Hampton, though, and embarks on a romantic relationship with him, somewhat recklessly because he presides over both the McKay and Thompson cases. Wracked with debt from a messy divorce, Hampton is approached by Thompson to help fix the outcomes in both cases, which means manipulating Rosa’s handling of them. What ensues is a tangled web of deception, romance and artfully crafted crime that drives a complex, suspenseful narrative to a crescendoing climax. Millhollin adeptly captures Rosa’s anxiety as she learns the precariousness of her situation: “Rosa watched the sun rise, but not by choice. She was extremely worried how today would play out and sleep was impossible. She not only had the uncertainty of the sentencing of McKay but she had the unpredictable issue of the volatility of both her client and his one-legged friend.” The drama is paced briskly, and the dialogue is sharply written, though the characters are sometimes confected out of shopworn clichés. Nevertheless, bad guys remain scary enough, and Rosa real enough, to grip the reader’s attention until the end.
A somewhat formulaic but still well-crafted suspense story.