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by Christopher Darden and Dick Lochte
Signet, March 2002
464 pages
ISBN: 0451205413

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Imagine my surprise: a "celebrity" mystery that is really quite good. I know, I'm being snobby, but that sense that "anyone can write" can lead far too many famous people to believe they can write mysteries. Of course, working with established talent like Dick Lochte, helps your cause a lot.

I had not heard of the first book in this series The Trials of Nikki Hill, which came out in 1999 and established this writing team, which includes a now-famous L.A. Prosecutor (known for the O.J. Simpson case, although given that Simpson was acquitted, I'm not sure why that would be played up by the prosecutor's publicity people). Too often, courtroom books set in places like L.A. are slick, unreal and full of Very Famous People. Not here - this is a legit courtroom mystery.

Nikki Hill is a prosecutor in Los Angeles. Like many in her field, she deals with the politics in the office (despite her claim that she ignores politics, she simply cannot), and has to deal with competitive co-workers.

The major focus in this mystery is the not-all-that-simple murder of a woman in her home. Accused of the crime is a very wealthy man who claims not to have murdered the woman he wanted to marry. Nikki's take on the case is aided by information from Virgil Sykes, her lover and a cop.

There are some solid side stories in this book, and some memorable characters, from the victim's whiz-kid son, Adam, to some pimps who are pretending to go legit. The only false note for me was Sykes, who acts like a stupid macho jerk at time and doesn't understand why Nikki won't put up with his thick-headed behavior. Duh.

I expected to be unimpressed by this tale of money and power. I don't like those slick mysteries where money talks and buys its way out of trouble and lots of brand name are mentioned. I became aware very early that my assumptions that L.A. Justice would be one of those books were wrong. I read it pretty much in one sitting and was pleased by the time I spent. I did figure out something critical part-way through the book, but unless you're one of those readers who has to puzzle out the plot, you won't be cheated. That it took me as long as it did to catch on means the book's pacing was well-done. This is, with all respect meant, a good read. --

http://www.drizzle.com/~roscoe/tshirts.html - Sherloc kian, Wodehousian & more

Reviewed by Andi Shechter, December 2000

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