The real joy of this book is Charns' collection of eccentric characters, who lend engaging color but always remain believable. The author is, himself, a criminal defense attorney, and has a keen eye and ear for the small southern town milieu, such as when Star's friend Joy gets righteously angry when her married boyfriend tells her he's going back to his wife—the next morning. The courtroom scenes are lively and believable, and the deft cross-examination scenes keep the pages turning. In some places, the plot can be a challenge to keep up with, with motives and subplots that are sometimes hard to follow, but Charns keeps everything moving briskly to a satisfying ending.
Star is a delightful character, an engaging mix of bravado and self-doubt, prescribed with lithium for manic-depression—a sleuth with realistically depicted mental health challenges is refreshing. Star is honest with herself and the reader about her condition and neither glorifies nor dramatizes it—describing the side effects that sometimes are worse than the diagnosis. She's also upfront about her awkward love life, which lends a welcome note of pathos to the courtroom shenanigans, and readers are left hoping to meet this imperfect but lovable lawyer in a future adventure.
Takeaway: A defense attorney framed for murder must prove her innocence in this engaging thriller.
Great for fans of: Joey Hartstone’s The Local, Wanda M. Morris’s All Her Little Secrets.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-