In her tenth outing (Presumption of Death, 2002, etc.), lawyer Nina Reilly contends with an importuning Romeo, two would-be Romanovs, and a riot of runaway plot lines.
Start with Paul van Wagoner, the predatory (though dishy) private investigator who’s been eyeing Nina since forever without being able to bag his prey. Now, however, he’s got home field advantage in Carmel, California, and is he ever hot to trot. Out comes the diamond dazzler (his grandma’s) to accompany those commitment-demanding words: “Nina, will you marry me?” Is Nina finally cornered? Maybe, maybe not. Anyway, what’s she doing so far from her beloved Lake Tahoe? Turns out, it’s a sort of roots thing. Sweet old Klaus Pohlmann, for whom Nina once clerked, has lured her back to help with a murder case. And kindly Klaus, a brilliant trial lawyer in his time, clearly needs a talented second chair: his glance can go disturbingly vacant, his grasp of legal niceties seem unsettlingly shaky. Emanating from Klaus’s own firm are murmurs Nina would prefer not to hear, less-than-collegial suggestions that her former mentor might be best advised to pack up his Blackstone. As for the case itself, offbeat at the outset, it transmutes in a hurry to the authentically bizarre. Young Stefan Wyatt stands accused of grave-robbing and . . . er . . . grave-filling. How he got himself into this mess defies quick detailing. Suffice it to say that two corpses are involved, that both have connections to the last tsar of Russia, and that neither, believe it or not, is purported to be Anastasia. In a protracted, rather unconvincing courtroom climax, not at all typical of sure-handed O’Shaughnessy sisters Mary and Pam, Nina gets it sorted out, more or less. Paul van Wagoner? He gets sorted out, too.
After solid performances in their most recent efforts, the O’Shaughnessys stumble here.