Thursday, January 10, 2013

Suspicion of Guilt

By Barbara Parker, 1996 ... Gail Connor has had a hard time lately. Her husband left her. Her sister was murdered, and Gail was charged with the crime. All this happened in the last book, Suspicion of Innocence. Now Gail, the Miami lawyer, is back. In this book she has a Cuban-American boyfriend (who was her defense lawyer briefly in the last book), a 10-year-old daughter, and at her firm she is trying to make partner. … This is a legal thriller, with lots of action, confrontations, and also steamy bedroom scenes. The plot is believable and gets consistently more tense toward the end. The author, a lawyer herself, clearly knows what it’s like to work at a firm. Also, we get to see lots of Miami. The book even had me turning to Google Earth so that I could orient myself. Which way does Miami face, now? Where’s the coast? Where do these causeways lead? As you would hope from Miami, a lot of the action takes place on or near the water. … If you like the genre, you will like this book. I don’t even particularly like it, yet I read the whole thing and often neglected my duties to read it because the book is such a page-turner. … So why don’t I like it? One major problem is Gail Connor herself. For most of the book, I found her hard to identify with. The scenes between Gail and her 10-year-old daughter are painful. I could identify with both of them in those scenes, but it seemed to me that Gail was not really trying to listen to her daughter. Of course, Gail was under a lot of pressure. That happens when you’re in a character in a legal thriller. Gail also doesn’t seem to really like her boyfriend for most of the book. She is so prickly that she bristles at him constantly. Perhaps this has to do with personality. To make partner, as a woman, and also to get involved in an unofficial murder investigation, you have to be bloody-minded. But I spent much of the book annoyed with Gail for how she treats wonderful Anthony. … Except when they’re hopping in bed, of course. Does anybody really do that after a day in which they’ve been arrested / beaten up / chewed out by their boss / nearly killed? Maybe in Hollywood. Anyway, I advise skipping those scenes, they border on porn. … It’s not all Gail’s fault that she’s not too likeable. She has some stiff competition from the other characters in the book. Gail’s mother, Irene, is terrific. I have already mentioned Anthony. And there is the murder victim, a large-livin’ Miami socialite. And Gail’s irrepressible Cuban-American office intern, Miriam. Even the murderer himself is a well-drawn character … a jerk, but a familiar kind of jerk. And the way these people talk! Whether it’s the octogenarian Miami aristocrat (“By God, aren’t you lovely? And tall. A strapping young woman.”) or the fiftyish black police detective (“I might want to reinstitute some paperwork from an incident over at Mrs. Tillett’s house. You understand what I’m saying?”), you can almost hear their voices saying it. … Gail redeems herself with her daughter, and with me, in the obligatory scene at the end when they’re fighting for their lives with a desperate killer. I might be willing to read about her again, if only to see how the daughter turns out.