There's nothing hard-edged or particularly profound about Jonnie Jacobs's series of mysteries starring California lawyer Kali O'Brien, but--like good TV movies--the plots are convincing, the characters colorful, and the writing smooth and competent. The author's latest finds O'Brien handling a trial in her hometown in the Sierra foothills for a lawyer friend, Nina Barrett, who is five months pregnant and just diagnosed as having Hodgkin's disease.
When Nina's husband, Grady--a handsome and successful businessman with a history of sexual conquests--is accused of rape by a blowsy woman he met at a party, Kali very reluctantly agrees to defend him. She is virtually certain that the swaggering Barrett is guilty, and resents his betrayal of her sick friend. But as the investigation and trial proceed, Kali gradually begins to believe his claims of innocence--especially when two people die in suspicious circumstances. Jacobs succeeds in catching and holding readers' interest by setting up her characters as generic and then proceeding to fill in the relevant details that make them unique. Other Kali O'Brien books in paperback are Evidence of Guilt and Shadow of Doubt. --Dick Adler
From Kirkus Reviews
In the middle of launching a public offering of ComTech, his graphics chip company, Grady Barrett runs into a streak of rotten luck. His wife Nina, six months pregnant, has been diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, which can't even be treated till after a caesarian. Deirdre Nichols, the beauty salon receptionist he picks up at a bar, accuses him of rape, and he won't even consider his lawyer Kali O'Brien's consensual-sex defense. Then suddenly the charge is withdrawnbut only because the complainant is dead, fallen from her balcony window. Or pushed, say the Oakland police, who claim they can place Grady's Mercedes convertible at the scene, courtesy of a statement by Deirdre's seven-year-old daughter. Calling on Hal Fisher, a gay investigator she's worked with before, Kali rolls up her sleeves in preparation for the trial. Once again, though, Grady is adamant about running his own defense. He can't spend six months to a year away from his sick wife and his little girl while he waits for the case to come to trial; Kali will have to do everything she can to get the charge thrown out at the preliminary hearing, even though nobody's been able to pull off that trick since Perry Mason. Jacobs is still too lightweight to run with her big sisters in the legal-intrigue genre; there's nothing of Nancy Taylor Rosenberg's sense of menace or Lisa Scottoline's powers of invention on display here. Instead, Kali's third case (Evidence of Guilt, 1997, etc.) is a whodunitand the best-turned puzzle of Jacobs's six novels to date. (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.