It’s one a.m. Do you know where your teenagers are? Prosecutor Dana Hargrove makes it a point to know. But one night, in the dead of winter, she should have known more.
In February 2009, Dana is the newly-elected district attorney of a suburban county north of Manhattan, where she lives with her husband, attorney Evan Goodhue, and their two teenage children. The Great Recession has seen a rise in substance abuse and domestic violence. It’s also the era of burgeoning social media, an intoxicating lure for wayward and disaffected teens who find new methods of victimization: a game to some, with no thought of the consequences.
During an arctic cold snap, the body of a high school student is discovered, lodged in the ice floes of the Hudson River. People are crying for justice, but there doesn’t seem to be a law that fits. Days later, in one hellish night, Dana’s children are sucked into a criminal investigation against several of their classmates, making her a convenient target for community outrage.
In Deep Zero, the fourth stand-alone legal mystery featuring the dynamic prosecutor, Dana walks the tightrope like never before in her tricky balance between professional ethics and family loyalties.
Deep Zero distinguishes itself thanks to a powerful blend of vivid writing and legal insight.
Facing situations from cyberbullying to murder, District Attorney Dana Hargrove has her work cut out for her in V. S. Kemanis’s compelling legal thriller Deep Zero.
At once a mom, wife, and DA, Dana Hargrove is thrown into uncharted and heart-wrenching legal territory after a teenager, Naomi Steuben, leaps to her death from a bridge during a frigid White Plains, New York, winter. Naomi is the apparent victim of social media harassment from two girls in her high school.
Are those girls responsible for Naomi’s death? As Hargrove and her team race to find answers, their job is complicated by new cases—one of teen misbehavior, and one a grisly domestic murder case. A wild party results in charges of assault and driving under the influence that involve Hargrove’s husband and children.
The narrative skillfully weaves its multiple cases together. Hargrove’s attorney husband litigates a case against an opposing attorney whose daughter is charged in the DUI case; that girl has a romantic attachment to Hargrove’s son. Hargrove’s daughter also becomes a material witness in the assault case.
Throughout, the story reveals the fascinating tactics and strategies used in litigation. Attorneys on every side investigate, discuss, and proceed while the judges rule. The book’s legal maneuvering rings true and makes for riveting reading, all the more so because of the emotional elements that are included. The narrative never forgets that there is a human cost to misbehavior and poor judgment, even when its characters do.
Characters are clearly, consistently, and compassionately written. Physical descriptions, actions, and dialogue bring even secondary characters into sharp focus. Characters’ own perspectives round them out: suicidal Naomi sees herself as a “sad lump of a girl”; Hargrove believes that a promise is a promise and that action is the proof of integrity.
Active, verbal, and descriptive writing makes for consumable reading. Plot twists come along smoothly and credibly, fostered by clear character motivations. Still, the story strays from the initial focus, a compelling exploration of the legal ramifications of cyberbullying, with character actions hijacking that story line and pushing a subplot about teen partying into primary focus.
The book’s title and early developments suggest that subzero winter weather might be a factor in the perilous events, a thread most clearly developed when Naomi’s body is found frozen in the ice of the Hudson River and that factors in less dramatically after.
Deep Zero distinguishes itself with its powerful blend of vivid writing, legal expertise and insight, and finely and compassionately drawn characters.
"In Deep Zero by V. S. Kemanis, we return to the complex world of District Attorney Dana Hargrove, who, once again, in her line of work, is dealing with several unusual cases. Incidentally, one of them involves her own kids.
…"There are no quiet moments, the plot is extremely suspenseful, and drama abounds as well…. [Like] the previous book, Forsaken Oath, …, we still see family as equally important – Dana and Evan would do (and are doing) everything for their kids and for each other – but the action does take center stage here. There were times I was literally on the edge of my seat because the suspense would never let up.
"…Having read all four books in the Dana Hargrove series, I can safely say that they can be read as standalone novels, however, I do suggest you pick them up in order. This way you get to learn more about Dana, experience her character development from book to book, and meet her family, including her two kids, whom I adore."
"Kemanis fills her narrative with multiple characters who intertwine via legal ties, family ties, or sometimes both. She vividly portrays the difficulties of balancing the intricacies of the practice of law with the intimacies of the practice of parenthood. Her principal players seem particularly real whether they’re adults overburdened with conflicting responsibilities or teens awash in interpersonal issues. This is a confident author as at home with courtrooms, legal briefs, and summary judgments as she is with bedrooms, term papers, and adolescent anxiety. If you like fiction that feels true, characters you can relate to, and individuals trying their best to be their best, then chances are you’ll warm to this book."