Guilt by Association by Marcia Clark

Guilt By Association is the lead title for Mulholland Books, the new mystery imprint of Little, Brown. They say their motto is to publish mysteries that you can’t stop reading, and I think they have accomplished this with Clark’s first novel. I picked this book up with the intention of flipping through a few pages, just to get the feel of it and Clark’s style, but I read the first chapter, and then I read another chapter, and so on until I had finished reading the book.

Rachel Knight is an intelligent and driven prosecutor in the competitive Special Trials Division of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office, where she handles extremely sensitive and high-profile cases. Not having much of  a life outside the office has made the friendships she has cultivated through work very valuable to her. When her friend and co-worker, Jake Pahlmeyer, is found dead in a seedy location and in dubious circumstances, Rachel is shaken to the core. Still reeling, she investigates one of Jake’s final cases, the rape of a prominent community member’s daughter, all the while trying to find out why Jake died in such scandalous circumstances and whether she can repair his besmirched reputation. She puts her reputation and job on the line to get to the truth.

Sometimes I worry when lawyers make the leap into fiction writing. The profession of law demands a fair amount of writing to be sure, but I suspect it’s mostly the kind that puts you to sleep instead of keeping you up at night. I have read fiction by attorneys that has been dry and painfully boring at best, I won’t even tell you about the worst. So even though I had been warned that this was indeed a good read, I still approached it with a fair amount of trepidation, and happily none of my fears were warranted. I encountered a well-written page turner with characters I really loved, and can’t wait to see again.

Clark has a nice touch with description and dialogue that is not only engaging, but filled with immediacy and warmth. I really felt as if I knew Rachel Knight and her smart but wise-cracking friend LAPD Detective Bailey Keller. Both cases they were trying to solve were interesting and kept me guessing throughout the novel. Rachel Knight is a heroine that you can definitely get behind. She is smart, tenacious and loyal but not without issues that she has hidden in constantly overworking. It was nice to get the background of some of those issues and to see her take baby steps in approaching them. There might even be a little sumthin’ going on with a certain dashing Lieutenant.

Guilt By Association is a smart and captivating mystery with more than a little of the page turner about it. Clark has charming cast with Rachel and crew, and I look forward to their further exploits. Also, for a bit of fun, you can check out some of the locations featured in the book on Clark’s website. Recommended.

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