The New York Times bestselling Nina Reilly novels have dazzled both readers and critics with their crackling blend of legal suspense and taut human drama. Now Perri O'Shaughnessy, hailed as "smart", "gripping", and "complex" by the San Francisco Chronicle, brings us her best--and most explosive--Nina Reilly novel yet.
Amid the sparkling snow-swept mountains of Lake Tahoe, Nina Reilly has made a home, juggling the demands of her one-woman law practice and raising a teenage son alone. Now Nina has taken on a case that will threaten everything she holds dear, drawing her into a tangled web of loyalties and alliances within one of Lake Tahoe's most prominent families. Her client: a man accused of murdering his own brother--on the ski slopes of Tahoe. The law says Nina must give Jim Strong the best possible defense. But Strong's family has turned violently against him, and suddenly Nina is at the center of the storm. As she works a flawed and troubling case and gets swept into an unexpected love affair, the two sides of Nina's life come crashing together...in the ultimate act of malice.
Attorney and single mother Nina Reilly makes her fifth appearance in the bestselling author O'Shaughnessy sisters' (Breach of Promise; Obstruction of Justice) new legal thriller, this one set on the ski slopes of Lake Tahoe. Reilly's client in this case is Jim Strong, a local ski bum whose family owns the swanky Paradise resort. Jim stands accused of killing his younger brother Alex, who was stomped to death by someone wearing ski boots whose imprints on Alex's chest match the soles of Jim's footgear. But the suspect claims he's being framed by his adulterous wife, Heidi, who gave a statement to police and has gone into hiding. The case gives Reilly the willies, as disturbing events ensue that cast doubt on her client. Philip Strong, father of the dead youth and the suspect, is behaving strangely, and the victim's wife, a libidinous ski bunny made wealthy through inheritance, seems to have more feelings for Jim than for her dead husband. And the prosecutor, the passionate Collier Hallowell, warns Reilly off the case, hinting that Jim is a psychopath who killed animals as a kid and will seek vengeance on her if her defense doesn't get him off the hook. Reilly almost takes the latter advice, because she and Hallowell are in love and talking about having kids together. Their romance strains credibility and verges on syrupy: "He kissed her like he was searching for something, looking for her, only her." The central question of whether Jim is a murderer or a sap has an answer as predictable as the love scenes are corny. Sisters Pamela and Mary O'Shaughnessy (writing under their vaguely disguised pen name) do well to surround Reilly with a well-drawn cast of characters who provide a pleasant diversion even after the suspense has fizzled. $300,000 marketing campaign; author tour. (July) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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June 12, 2000
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Excerpt from Acts of Malice by Perri O'Shaughnessy
Through her office door, Nina Reilly heard the gentle guitar and coaxing voice of Carlos Botelho, singing that love is a paradox that disappears the moment you find it. Sandy Whitefeather, her secretary, had developed a fixation on this particular recording and had been playing it over and over for two weeks. In the outer office, Sandy hummed along with the tune, if that rasping monotone could be called a hum.
After a long morning in court, Nina had just had lunch, a spicy quesadilla from Margarita's Mexican Restaurant across Lake Tahoe Boulevard from the office. Her yellow silk blouse now sported a salsa stain on the front, right where it stuck out the most. Men didn't have this structural difficulty. Also, sometimes they had the advantage of those patterned ties, so useful for catching drips.
Naturally, the prospective client who had come to consult her was an attractive male, tieless but stainless, who had immediately noticed the blouse. He had noticed all of her very thoroughly before he sat down, and now he was looking around the office, getting his bearings.
A, amor . . .
Love takes its rhythm from the sea
Seeking and leaving eternally
Outside her window a light, dry snow fell, shot through with sunlight as the squall moved on across the Sierra into the high desert of the Carson Valley. It was only the beginning of November, and snow already capped the giant peaks that surrounded South Lake Tahoe. At over six thousand feet, Tahoe caught the cold currents of winter long before the valleys of the San Joaquin and the Pacific Coast.
Stretching out her legs under the desk to relieve the pressure on her stomach, she gazed past him toward that calming fall of snow, thinking, here it comes again, the change of weather, the new case, the trouble that falls endlessly through the door.
"You're gonna love this one," Sandy had told her the day before, handing her the phone message slip. This could mean anything; that Sandy approved of the client's political beliefs, family ties, or bank account.
Nina had written his name and address and phone number at the top of her legal pad: James Strong, Paradise Lodge Manager, care of Paradise Ski Resort, Stateline, Nevada. "Call me Jim," he had said as he looked her over, holding out a hand. He had taken off his red, white, and black Tommy Hilfiger parka and seated himself in one of the client chairs, but he didn't seem ready to talk yet.
She watched him check out the office with its fiddle-leaf fig in the sunny corner, the picture on her desk of Bob, looking not-too-thrilled at being caught on film by the school photographer, and the framed certificates on the walls. Nina Reilly, attorney-at-large. Graduate, Monterey College of Law. Admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the State of California.
Hard-earned certificates. So hard earned, it had taken five years to pay off the student loans.