A lawyer’s newest case digs up buried treasures that result in murder.
Martha “Taffy” Tarlington is a former debutante fallen on hard times. When her uncle offers to buy out her 25 percent share in the family’s moribund mining business, she thinks “something is up” and hires her father’s Philadelphia law firm to see whether the deal is “too good to be true.” The case goes to Peter Stern, head of the litigation department. No sooner does Stern meet his “spoiled and alcoholic” client than the two fall into bed. “I really don’t feel it’s sporting to make it with drunk chicks, and certainly a client,” the first-person narrator confesses, but that doesn’t stop them from performing “most of the pages of the Kama Sutra.” This seemingly fireable ethical lapse is greeted instead with nudge-nudge-wink-wink jokes back in the office (“You dirty hound dog”). Stern meets Taffy’s uncle, Herman Breisach, and he, too, suspects the man is up to something. The lawyer’s suspicions are confirmed when he inspects a dilapidated mine containing illicit contraband that someone considers worth killing for. Malmed (Joseph’s Redemption, 2017, etc), a retired attorney, skillfully brings his legal expertise to the fast-paced story. But exposition is sometimes ham-handed (“I should explain a few terms”). Strangely, the book jacket gives away the story’s MacGuffin while the work’s title is an on-the-nose reveal. The mystery, such as it is, unfolds with few twists, scant suspense, and low stakes, although Stern does get another chance to demonstrate his sexual prowess during a gratuitous threesome with Taffy and her “butch” friend Adrian. The chapter headings themselves read like an author’s plot outline and pretty much summarize their contents (“Calling Breisach,” “Meet with Breisach,” “Carmen Second Visit to Hispanic Camp”). While a climactic confrontation plays out cleverly, the resolution is ethically murky.
A brisk read that sets up a possible mystery series.