In Violent Crimes by Phillip Margolin, Amanda Jaffe is hired to represent the son of a senior partner at a large Oregon law firm. The son, Brandon, was seen by a witness leaving the scene of the crime where the body of his father was severely and fatally beaten, and his clothes were covered in blood.
While it seems like an open and shut case, the stakes are high as Brandon’s father, Dale Masterson, represented the interests of both oil and coal. Brandon is an activist and has become disenchanted to the point of serious quarrels with his father over the damage being created by drilling. Brandon confesses to the killing, but Amanda does not see him as the perpetrator. His physique and his mentality do not seem to fit the profile. Brandon confesses to murdering his father in revenge for all the people whose lives have been destroyed by his shortsighted backing of his clients.
After speaking with him and trying to assess the situation, she believes he may be martyring himself. Yet if he is innocent then who is the killer? And does the crime also tie in to Masterson’s colleague, Christine Larson, who is found dead in her offices? A lower level employee has been tagged for her murder but are the two murders related, they worked for the same firm and knew each other.
As Jaffe digs for answers she finds more than she bargained for. Digging deeper, even at the risk of her life, she must find the answers to this vicious murder. As danger becomes her enemy and she begins to understand the real truth, can she make the decision that is necessary to put the murderer behind bars?
Margolin finds the stories that seem to often accompany the headlines and brings them into stark relief. His protagonist, Amanda Jaffe, is just the right mix of bravado, softness and smarts. She is easy to like and you find yourself digging with her to find the answers. She goes beyond what is expected of her job, but she takes the life of her clients very seriously, and she will do everything she can to make sure justice finds the way.
If mystery, suspense and courtroom drama are to your liking this is an excellent addition to your book shelf. Margolin gives us a character to admire in Amanda Jaffe, and you will find yourself looking for his other works with her in the central role.
This would be a great book for a reading or discussion group. The question of ethics is always up for debate.