The inflammatory title is the reporter's outrage at injustice, but irony is the flavor of the month, to be tasted again in Walker's clever and readable story.
Sacramento's Steve Martini is another of the lawyers, or former lawyers, writing superior thrillers about the law. "Prime Witness" was prime and his latest, Undue Influence (Putnam, 462 pp., $22.95) is up to standard, which is to say first-rate.
His continuing protagonist, Paul Mariani, is now a widower, his wife's dying request having been that he look after her kid sister. No small request; the sister is in a bitter custody fight with her ex, a potent state legislator with judicial ambitions. When his new wife is murdered, Mariani's protectee is charged with her murder.
The courtroom stuff is excitingly theatrical as always, but Martini is not stuck indoors. There is a dangerous detour to Hawaii in quest of a mysterious pair of government-protected witnesses. Later, a prowling pursuit through a darkened locomotive museum provides shivers that Hitchcock would have loved.
Nancy Taylor Rosenberg, drawing as before on her work as a police office and probation worker, explores the justice system again in First Offense (Dutton, $22.95, 338 pp.). Ann Carlisle, a young probation officer, is assigned a young first-time drug offender who's been given probation in lieu of jail time.
Bafflingly, she is shot and seriously wounded even as she leaves the courthouse. It is the onset of bafflements, not the least of which is a jar of severed fingers found in a refrigerator. Someone quite demented is stalking Carlisle, and it may well be someone who doesn't \o7 SEEM\f7 demented. The reader may be baffled less long than Carlisle, but the ultimate stalk is splendidly suspenseful all the same.
The Angel Gang (St. Martin's, $20.95, 262 pp.) concludes Ken Kuhlken's trilogy set in and about San Diego in the years just before, during and just after World War II. Now 44 and bald, Tom Hickey, sometime cop, MP and private eye, is playing sax for a living up in Tahoe, with his wife Wendy, whom he had rescued in an earlier caper, expecting a baby.
The past beckons: a call from a singer he had also helped in an earlier caper, now under arrest for murder and demanding his help. Subtlety is not Hickey's MO, and he pokes enough ant hills back in San Diego to endanger himself and his wife, who is kidnaped in Tahoe to make Hickey back off.
The new book is swift and active, but the first of the trilogy, "The Loud Adios," remains the best of the three in its recapturing of the period and its portrait of the younger, even wilder Hickey.
Valerie Wilson Wesley, executive editor of Essence magazine, makes her debut as a crime novelist with When Death Comes Stealing (Putnam, $19.95, 219 pp.). Tamara Hayle is a black ex-cop and single mother, now trying to make it as a private eye in Newark. Her ex-husband, who has a son by each of four wives, including Hayle, needs help. Two of his sons are dead, a year apart to the day. It's more than coincidence. A third dies, putting Hayle's own son at risk.
Revenge is the only likely explanation, and so it is, explained by a tragic history. But good as the construction of the story is, what may well linger with the reader is the incidental music--the tang of the speech, the sense of life observed or imagined as it is lived on the hard lower edge of a hard city. Wesley's book is a valuable debut.
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