Let other lawyers chase power, prestige, and billable hours; despite his secret fondness for corporal-punishment videos and chat rooms, Reppert Pennyworth has found a soothing backwater handling intellectual property work for an Indianapolis firm—until a plagiarism suit rocks his world in ways he couldn’t have imagined. At first Charlotte Buchanan’s claim that Point West Studio’s In Contemplation of Death rips off her justly unheralded suspenser And Done to Others’ Harm seems ludicrous (her list of similarities between the two is a perverse classic of vanity). But when Rep and his wife Melissa notice one resemblance too many, the case rapidly heats up. Point West head Aaron Eastman, amiably dismissing Charlotte’s argument while he’s in the Midwest scouting locations, is set up in a phony drug bust, apparently by Rep’s own client. Charlotte’s father Tyler, the CEO of behemoth Tavistock Ltd., is threatened by a hostile takeover by buccaneering Tempus-Caveator. Eastman’s claim that his last mega-budget film, Red Guard!, was done in by ballot-fixing at the Oscars is backed up by still another screenplay that purports to reveal the whole scandal. And Rep, ever seeking the quiet life, can’t back out of this circus because Charlotte’s already discreetly blackmailing him about his taste for spanking, and his billing partner is about to find out too.
Much merriment at the expense of attorneys, writers, publishers, filmmakers, and fetishists. This time, though, Bowen (Collateral Damage, 1999, etc.) gets so carried away with gorgeous plot complications that the result is a perfect paradise of dropped stitches, the first mystery in many a day that should have been longer.