Michele Martinez is making her name in legal thrillers, and she’s doing it by offering rapid-fire action, legal expertise, and solid characters that grow with every novel. Notorious is her fourth book, and it once again features her New York City assistant district attorney heroine, Melanie Vargas.
Before turning to a life of crime-writing, Michele Martinez also worked as a prosecuting attorney in New York City. Her cases involved narcotics, smuggling, and murder. When she writes about something, she puts in a lot of authenticity.
Melanie Vargas is a hard-working single mother with an ex who was a lousy husband but a great father to her two-year old daughter. As of this novel, she’s currently estranged from her FBI boyfriend Dan O’Reilly. I enjoy reading about her, getting to know her co-workers and family, and watching her struggle with emotional entanglements with those people as well as her cases. She’s cleanly written and feels like a real person.
Notorious begins with a bang – literally. After Melanie talks to Lester Poe, the famous defense attorney she’s presently bumping heads with while attempting to put his rapper client away, Poe’s car gets blown to bits. Poe dies with it, and Melanie is deeply affected by his death. In just that small scene, Martinez won me over to the pursuit of vengeance/justice throughout the rest of the novel. I believed in Poe as a character as well - he was a lot like other attorneys I’ve gotten to meet. And I totally understood Melanie’s need to ensure the world still made sense and the good guys could still win.
The action picks up intensity as the police and FBI get involved. The scenes (and chapters) are short and brisk and made the read both easy and pleasant as the pages turned and turned. I was on the trail with Melanie, and there was no way either one of us was going to back down.