Violent Crimes, by Phillip Margolin

Seven stars

In another of his legal thrillers, Margolin places Amanda Jaffe at the centre of a number of high-intensity events. After a bar fight goes wrong, Tom Beatty comes to Jaffe for assistance in getting the charges dropped. Beatty returns to work as a paralegal and ends up embroiled in a heated argument with a colleague, Christine Larson. After Larson’s body is found in Beatty’s home, he’s taken into custody and Jaffe’s is retained once more. At a hearing, a legal technicality prevents a significant amount of evidence from being allowed and Beatty is released on conditional bail. Dale Masterson, senior partner in the firm that employed both Larson and Beatty is in cahoots with his fellow partner, Mark Hamilton, on a project Larson discovered before her death, one about which Beatty was also aware. Masterson is found dead in his home and Brendan Masterson, the disgruntled son, is seen fleeing the scene. Much evidence points towards Brendan and he does not deny killing his father. Jaffe is retained to Masterson at trial and seeks to get to the root of the slaying. Jaffe soon discovers that the murder has very close similarities to that of Larson, leaving her unconvinced that her new client is responsible. With Beatty nowhere to be found, his degree of guilt rises exponentially and Jaffe must find him to determine how all these murders tie together. Facing the need to put on the defence of a lifetime, Jaffe takes a leap of faith in hopes that she can save both her clients from death row. Margolin weaves a complex, yet highly entertaining, story into a compact novel and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat until the final sentence, literally.

I have often enjoyed the work that Margolin creates, as it is a wonderful mix of legal drama and nuanced character development. He gets to the root of the story and captures the writer’s attention while not getting too bogged down in legal minutiae. I was not sure where things were going, with Beatty’s initial charges under the Larson murder, but once things began developing, they fell nicely into place and created a mystery layered atop a wonderful legal thriller. While it has been a while since last I read any Amanda Jaffe, she is a refreshing character and one the reader will enjoy for a long time to come.

Kudos, Mr. Margolin for another great story. I enjoy how you can cram so much and keep things moving so effectively.