Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for October: 10/5 Carolina Crimes: Rock, Roll and Ruin 10/12 Alicia Beckman, Blind Faith 10/19 J. Woollcott, A Nice Place To Die 10/26 Carol J. Perry, High Spirits

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Review of Two Series--Defense Attorneys

While researching for the betterment of my current WIP, I sought out books to read in which the main characters were female, defense attorneys since my main character is a retired defense attorney. I wanted to find out how the authors structured their books, what language they used, and how much legal procedure they detailed. I found two series worthy of recommending.

Under the name Perri O’Shaughnessy two sisters write as a team, Mary O’Shaughnessy, a writer, and Pamela O’Shaughnessy, a former defense attorney. The series, stared in 1995, is still ongoing. Lake Tahoe, a riveting character, and its surrounding mountains attracts summer and winter tourists to the area. Since I’ve never been to Lake Tahoe, I found the setting interesting.

The main character, defense lawyer and single mother of a twelve-year-old boy, Nina Reilly, lives with her brother and his wife and carries a heavy caseload. Nina constantly juggles her work, personal life and motherhood, and sometimes she drops one of them, making her life a mess. Her clients at times lie to her, putting her in a tenuous legal position, but her own behavior, such as concealing evidence, does as well.

In Obstruction of Justice, Nina witnesses the death of an abusive father while hiking on a mountaintop, which she shares with the dysfunctional family and her hiking partner (and potential lover) a D.A. The apparent natural death by lightning strike of the abusive father should relieve stress, but the family remains on edge. Nina empathizes with the mother of the family, who is trying to keep her family together while suffering from the effects of abuse. When the deceased father’s father also dies, the prosecution, her D.A. hiking partner, makes a case against the grandson.

The case provides enough twists to be entertaining, and yet I found few characters evoked my sympathy. Nina’s empathetic responses to the family borders on unprofessional behavior. This emotionalism may or may not be realistic, but I found myself unable to identify with her. While investigating the case, her PI (and old flame) interviews a woman, who becomes the object of his sexual obsession. Imagine my surprise to find that I considered him the most sympathetic character. In the end, I found the plot satisfying, and I wondered if the intensity of trial lessened my enjoyment of the book and the main character even if it provided realism.   

Kate Wilhelm, author of the second series, writes in various genres and has won three Nebula and
two Hugo awards. First published in 1963, she is still writing. Recently, she bought the rights back for some of her books, formed her own company, and publishes her backlist in eBook format. For an established writer, I can’t applaud her enough. Aside from her science fiction, psychological suspense and other genres, she writes two mystery series. Many of her works have been adapted to the cinema and TV screens.

The Barbara Holloway series is set in Eugene Oregon, and her defense practice takes her to smaller towns set nearby. From reading about the series, the book I read, Desperate Measures, appears to be representative of the books in this series. Ms. Wilhelm started the series in 1991 and although she took a hiatus from 2008 to 2011, she continues to write it.

Barbara’s father is also a defense attorney, from whom she learned her trade. But she establishes her own practice and at times they compete. In Desperate Measures, after the murder, there is a lag period while the police investigate. Meanwhile, separate clients appear on her and her father’s doorsteps. Both clients think that the police will arrest them of murder. Before either is charged, the lawyers proceed to investigate. Father and daughter end up investigating to identify each other’s clients and conceal evidence from the other. When a second death takes her father’s client to the grave, they form a team using her father’s trusted PI to make a defense for her client and to investigate if the second death is also a case of murder, pitting them against the coroner and converging their cases.

The investigation is interesting, and Barbara’s client is a unique and sympathetic fellow. Born with a birth defect that multiple surgeries have not alleviated, her client’s face still gives him the appearance of a monster even though he is intelligent and possesses a wry humor. Barbara must defend him against prejudice originating in his horrific appearance that sullies the prosecution’s case.  

Although one of the Perri O’Shaughnessy series authors practiced as a defense attorney, if I were to choose between the two series, I’d pick Ms. Wilhelm’s series to read. Both are admirable and good reads. To me, it is either a case of Ms. Wilhelm doing her homework well and/or that she excels as a writer, again proving that it is the author not the story upon which storytelling success rests. And that determination gives me faith that I can write a story with a defense attorney main character, when I, like Ms. Wilhelm, never attended law school.


Shari Randall said...

Hi Elaine,
Thank you for doing such a terrific job describing the plots without giving anything away. I've read a few reviews that merrily spoil the twists and surprises the author has worked so hard to craft. Then I think, Well, I don't have to bother reading that book.

E. B. Davis said...

I'll have to give credit to Warren Bull for teaching me how to write a book review (and a few other things too!). My love of reading and passing on recommendations was the impetus of my writing. I admire those who have mastered the craft.

Anonymous said...

One of the Best series I've read is John Lescroart's about defense attorney, Dismas Hardy and in The Second Chair his defense attorney buddy is a girl. John was never a cop nor lawyer yet he writes well from both perspectives because he has a real life buddy who has. He consults with them and gives them opening credits for their contributions. Do that!

Laura Hernandez
Recovering Defense Lawyer

E. B. Davis said...

I'll have to read the Lescroart series, Laura. Thanks for recommending it. Yes, well, I wish I had a handy best friend that I could tap for information. Interviewing defense attorneys hasn't been going too well. If you are volunteering my email address is Love your self-labeling!

Jenni Legate said...

Great post, Elaine!

I commented on the guppies. Contact me if I can help. :)

Gloria Alden said...

Good reviews, E.B. Now I have two more series I'd like to try. I like how you chose these for research for your main character.

Jim Jackson said...

Best of luck in this project. I too am a fan of John Lescroart.

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

When I was researching series to read, I did come across Lescroart's series, but since the main character wasn't female, like my MC, I looked to read series in which the lead was female. I'm not sexist, I'm just thinking of applicability to my series. I will try Lescroart.

Gloria--both series are commendable reads that can be found in the library.

Thanks, Jim. On the Guppy list, Jenni looks like she could be my new best friend. Gotta love the Guppies.

Anonymous said...

A couple of new series to add to my already impossibly long to-be-read list (Gloria's Daylilly book is next!)

I enjoy reading mysteries where I can trust the author to be reasonably factual in their presentation. Nothing pulls me out of a story as much as a "wait a minute, that's not right" moment.

E. B. Davis said...

Neither of these series will do that, KM. In fact, as I said, in the Perri O'Shaughnessy series, there seemed to be too much tension, which could be realism, that detracted from the story. Both series were good reads, but I liked the MC better in Wilhelm's book. Everyone is attracted to different characters so that my preference creeping in.