In the tradition of a Janet Evanovich with her numbers or a John D. MacDonald and his books of many colors, thriller writer Barbara Levenson has staked her claim on the months of the year in the titles of the tomes in her series featuring scrappy Miami based criminal attorney Mary Magruder Katz. And that could be a problem: what happens to the loveable lawyer after the twelfth case? Given the success of Mary’s debut in Fatal February, her very entertaining reappearance in Justice in June now available in paperback, and the October and November adventures available on Levenson’s website, the author had better stake out a claim on a mine with more available ore (letters in the alphabet for example, well no — I guess it’s too late for that).
Justice in June has Magruder Katz up to her neck in high profile cases. A local judge, Liz Maxwell, who is under investigation on charges of corruption asks Mary to defend her. Mary’s hot Latin boyfriend Carlos asks her to help out the Argentinian son of friends of his family who has been detained by authorities as he tried to enter the country after some disturbance on the plane. And to top it all off, Carlos, himself, is being sued by a group of dissatisfied investors in the condo he is currently building. When it turns out that the young Argentinian is being held without charge as a terrorist, the judge seems to be involved with drug traffickers, and the condo suit is in the hands of the firm of Mary’s ex-boyfriend, life is about to get plenty complicated, complicated enough to keep the pages turning.
Add a varied cast of supporting characters including Mary’s Jewish father and Southern Baptist mother, her Latin lover and his well-to-do parents, a hunky ex-beau who threw her over for a contract with the Red Sox who is now in charge of the County Clerk office, an elderly judge who reveres the constitution, as well as a faithful canine, and Levenson has created a rich environment for her heroine. It suggests the reality of both her professional life as well as her life outside the confines of the specific case she happens to be working on. It creates a greater sense of realism.
That the novel makes some attempt to deal with significant political issues like governmental trampling of individual rights gives it a level of socio-political heft often missing from the typical thriller. Levenson raises questions that deserve answers. How should the government deal with suspected terrorists? What rights should non-citizens be granted? What is the role of the constitution in the age of global terrorism? To say nothing about what the book has to say about other issues like cultural clashes, religious differences and women in positions of power. Justice in June makes her position on these issues quite clear, and it does so with an infectious panache.
Take Justice in June along on your summer vacation for some good reading sunning on the beach sipping a cool one.
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