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by Michelle Spring
Ballantine Books, November 2006
336 pages
$32.95 CDN
ISBN: 0345437462

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Eleanor Porter, the night lawyer of the title, is a bit of a mess. Traumatized in childhood by the sudden death of her father, her somewhat shaky personality was further undermined when she was abandoned by her married lover. As a result, she suffered a massive depression and wound up in a mental hospital where she found salvation and a new interest in life through the happy medium of Chocolate Oranges.

Now quite recovered and newly slim thanks to karate workouts, she has taken a job with a tabloid as their 'night lawyer', the solicitor responsible for keeping the paper safe from lawsuits. Indeed, everything seems to be at last going well for Ellie; even her rat of an ex-lover has resurfaced, evidently no longer married, appropriately contrite and apparently madly in love with her once more.

Ellie will not, however, be permitted to settle comfortably into life with her pet hamster in her little house in Docklands. Though she is outwardly confident, quelling with a mere look any impulse the local hoodies might have to casual violence, she is far from fully healed. She is gradually becoming aware that she is being followed as she travels about the city. Her next-door neighbour, a young woman given to self-mutilation and a dubious boyfriend, turns to her for perhaps more help than she is able to provide. Worse, her house is broken into on several occasions and threatening notes are left.

Michelle Spring was once herself the victim of a stalker, a deranged student who threatened violence and then murder when his love was not reciprocated. Thus she understands well how destabilizing to one's sense of self and even sanity the mad attentions of a stalker can become. The edgy style and the present tense underscore the threat to Ellie and the fragility of her recovery; in many ways, any physical threat is the least of her worries.

THE NIGHT LAWYER is the first book Spring has published in five years. More a thriller than a detective story, it is a one-off, not part of the Laura Principal series. It will be interesting to see whether it marks a new direction in her work toward the standalone and away from the series detective.

Reviewed by Yvonne Klein, December 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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