Just listed at Amazon this morning, Privilege (Moonshine Cove Publishing May 21, 2019), my new book, which represents a change in pace for me. No, no, I’m not abandoning Florida as a setting (it’s the perfect location for a crime/mystery novel), nor am I abandoning my legal thriller format (must make use of all that experience and training as a lawyer, after all). But I have moved from light-hearted romps, legal thriller cozies if you will, to the dark side. Privilege is a legal thriller noir.
What’s that? you might ask.
We all know what a legal thriller is—John Grisham and Lisa Scottoline have made sure of that these last decades with their best-selling legal thrillers. And a noir book is one that harkens back to the hard-boiled detective books of Micky Spillane, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler. These are usually sexy, gritty tales involving crime, cynical detectives, women with shady pasts and a femme fatale quality about them, with plenty of fatalism, all tossed with moral ambiguity and usually painted with an erotic gloss. So, a legal thriller noir simply combines a legal thriller with that gritty, steamy noir quality, all infused with moral ambiguity. In other words, a legal thriller noir is a perfect type of book for our times.
Here’s a teaser and a few sample pages:
A once-fine law firm corrupted by a power-mad partner, a beautiful, jaded attorney snared by her past to a brutal marriage, a vengeful ex-con stalker on a mission for cross-eyed justice, a lawyer murdered in his bedroom, and the honorable cop caught in the crossfire: Privilege is their story.
Chapter One: Locked Doors and the Law Firm, 1987
“It’s not the worst thing I’ve done.” Ruby Randolph looked out the conference room window of the law firm, then closed her eyes for a moment and wondered what she was doing.
“Damn straight,” Gardner Randolph said, and laughed. “I can testify to that.” He leaned over the rosewood table to a vase of silk flowers and knocked off a clump of dust.
Ruby opened her eyes and watched out the window as a young woman pushed herself along the sidewalk in a wheelchair. The woman’s lawyer, a stocky man in a gray suit, strutted along beside her, waving his arms. “She got half of what she deserved.”
“So? You convinced the jury to cut her award way down. That makes you a good lawyer. But not her lawyer. She was the plaintiff. Your guy was the defendant. Get it?” Gardner stood up, stretched a bit, and walked to the door. “What’d she say to get you upset?”
“Nothing. She was nice.”
“Sure, they’re always nice once they get the check in their hands.”
“Why’d you come in here? Making sure I got the settlement papers signed and sealed?”
“Case is over. Forget it. Come down to my office, I have a new malpractice file I want you to take. Let me get back to my criminal defense work.”
Ruby shook her head. “I have a hearing in an hour. I need to go over the file again.”
“Jacob’s West Palms case. You know, that endless construction loan default case with seven co-defendants and three cross defendants.”
Gardner’s grip on the door knob tighten. “I know it,” he said. “Good old Jacob Stanley. Bills more hours than any partner and never sets foot in a courtroom.”
“That’s what he’s got me for. Anyway, I have an hour to figure it out.”
As Ruby edged by him in the doorway, Gardner moved toward her. He was so close she could smell the sandalwood in his Aramis aftershave and the Altoids mints he ate by the handful. She flattened herself against the door frame as he stepped closer and touched the side of her face with his fingers. Tilting toward him, Ruby inhaled. Give the devil his due. Her husband did smell good.
Gardner ran his fingers down her face to her neck and trailed them under her collar. Ruby leaned into the scent of him and for a moment she almost didn’t despise him.
He asked, “You need the whole hour?”
She jerked away. “That and more. Let me go.”
From an upstairs window, Nathaniel Thomas Vincent, the firm’s founding partner, studied Ruby as she paused outside the front of the building. As he watched her square her shoulders and pick up her briefcase, Nathaniel took in the tightly knotted hair, the long-sleeved white blouse and long gray skirt.
Ninety-five degrees and she’s dressed like a nun. Why’s she try to hide her looks?
“Damn,” he muttered, craning his head to follow her until she walked out of his line of vision.
Nathaniel turned back from the window and glared at Nancy, the firm’s office manager and head bookkeeper. A tiny woman with spiked black hair, she stood in front of his desk and squinted her narrow eyes at him.
“I got your attention now?”
“Somebody pried open the locked box in my desk last night and stole $235 out of our petty cash.”
“Oh, hell,” Nathaniel said, more upset at the odd look of satisfaction on Nancy’s face than the theft. “You have any idea who did it?”
“Yeah. One of my girls saw, but she won’t tell anybody but me. Afraid she’ll get fired, given the current mood of you partners. And you won’t like it.”
Nathaniel hadn’t liked much about the law firm this last year and a couple hundred bucks constituted more irritation than injury when they were losing thousands. “Tell me.”
Nancy stood rock still, her arms crossed in front of her chest, but her eyes never wavered off Nathaniel’s. He remembered what she’d said when Gardner hired her: “I’m as mean and smart as any of you.” That was the closest she’d come to saying anything personal to him.
“Come on,” he said. “Tell me.”
“Jacob. Jacob Stanley.”
Nathaniel shook his head. “You know what that man takes home. You cut the checks yourself. Why’d he steal from petty cash?”
Her eyes narrowed further until they were tiny slits. “It goes up his nose.”
Nathaniel knew the rumors, but he wasn’t going to discuss them with Nancy. “You bring me those month-end totals today, before you leave the office for the night.”
“Firm didn’t make its expenses. Again.” Nancy turned her back on him and walked out, but she left his door standing wide open.
He shut the door and stood behind it for a moment as he ran his hand through his thick, white hair. What’s next? The firm trusted its finances to a woman who never smiled and flunked her CPA exam four times before she quit trying. And now she was hiding the pea under the shell before anyone even knew they were playing that game.