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Keenan Powell
The Millionaire
When Maureen Gould’s former client, Tony Paredes, known as “The Millionaire,” is accused of killing his abuser, she believes he’s innocent. But the authorities don’t care. They throw him into jail with violent criminals who almost beat him to death to extort money he doesn’t have. As he recovers in the hospital, Maureen must find the evidence that will convince a jury to acquit him. If he goes back, the next beating will surely kill him.
Powell's second Maureen Gould thriller (after Implied Consent) packs a wallop. Trial lawyer Gould now represents Tony Paredes, a young man accused of murdering his abusive childhood chess coach, Oscar Wenderholm. Despite a successful prior trial against his coach, Tony and Maureen faced an overturned verdict due to a technicality; now under arrest on suspicion of Oscar’s murder, Tony is imprisoned and brutally beaten, giving Maureen added incentive to save him. Meanwhile, Maureen's own difficult childhood rears its ugly head, making the case exponentially more taxing.

A parallel plotline finds charming car salesman Rick Stevens being groomed for a California state senate position, while his handlers worry about his connection to Oscar. Through Stevens's story, Powell skillfully delivers a character both contemptible and pathetic, and the tale only becomes more intense, effectively—and grimly—evolving into true tragedy. Powell’s courtroom scenes and backdoor maneuverings are as realistic as they are gripping, guaranteeing a white-knuckle ride for readers. The plot moves quickly, but Powell devotes extra attention to character; Maureen especially comes across beautifully, as someone who has managed to create a happy life for herself despite her disturbing childhood.

Though there’s plenty of sweetness in Maureen’s story, this is not a cozy read. The crimes are appalling, and Powell spares no details, recounting Maureen’s troubled past in raw, heartbreaking tones alongside the gritty minutia of Stevens’s sordid existence. Maureen struggles with her estranged father and wages war with herself about which dark family secrets to share with her daughter—personal tensions that Powell cleverly reflects in Tony’s trial, granting this mystery a refreshingly holistic view rarely found in legal thrillers. Even relatively minor characters are nicely fleshed out, and all get their just deserts in a wind-up that is both surprising and satisfying, leaving readers to eagerly await Maureen's next case.

Takeaway: A lawyer defends a man wrongly accused of murder while facing her own childhood demons.

Comparable Titles: Scott Turow, Michael Connelly.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: B+