Saturday, May 21, 2011

Celebrating Mysteries: In the Courts of Law

This month, I'm celebrating Jewish Heritage Month by featuring Jewish crime fiction. The books have either been written by Jewish authors, they have Jewish characters, or they're set in places like Israel. This week, I'm focusing on the courts of law with two Jewish lawyers and a probate court official, and I certainly hope you find a book or two in this post that you just have to read. Let's get started, shall we?

Michael A. Kahn
Michael A. Kahn is a trial lawyer in St. Louis, Missouri. He's written a series of seven books featuring lawyer Rachel Gold who practices first in Chicago, Illinois, and then in St. Louis, Missouri.

Grave Designs APA The Canaan Legacy (1992), Death Benefits (1992), Firm Ambitions (1995), Due Diligence (1995), Sheer Gall (1996), Bearing Witness (2000), and Trophy Widow (2002).

Asked to perform a favor for a former boss who now heads the staid law firm of Abbott and Windsor, Chicago attorney Rachel Gold must determine why one of the firm's clients left a bizarre codicil in his will in Grave Designs.

The entire series has been described as one that has a strong female lead, is loaded with authentic material, and has genuinely intriguing mysteries to solve. Sounds like just our cups of tea, don't they?

Ona Russell
Author Ona Russell is a teacher at the college and university levels who's created a series featuring Sarah Kaufman, a Jewish probate court official in 1920s Toledo, Ohio, who later visits Dayton, Tennessee.

So far there are two books in the series: O'Brien's Desk (2004) and The Natural Selection (2008). Russell is currently working on the third.

Here's a description of the first book in the series, O'Brien's Desk:

The year is 1923, and one of Ohio's most prominent judges, O'Brien O'Donnell, fathers his first and only child. Though a joyous occasion for the recently married fifty-nine year old, the birth sets off a terrifying chain of events, beginning with blackmail and the judge's near-fatal breakdown. His only hope for recovery lies with his trusted friend and colleague, Sarah Kaufman. As Sarah begins to unravel the clues surrounding O'Brien s collapse, she is repeatedly confronted with the explosively paradoxical forces that defined life in the twenties: sexual promiscuity and self-righteous morality, Progressive reform and political corruption, racial tolerance and institutionalized bigotry. It was O'Brien s unique ability to strike a compromise between these forces that made him so popular...and, she realizes, so vulnerable to attack. And soon enough, Sarah, too, becomes a victim, a target of the blackmailer's hatred and revenge. But with the help of a story-hungry reporter to whom she becomes ambivalently attached, the unconventional Jewess sets out to free the judge and herself from their common enemy. How? The answer lurks within the hidden recesses of...O'Brien s desk. Based on true events, this suspenseful novel possesses a unique authenticity. With actual newspaper articles about the real O'Brien O'Donnell beginning each chapter, the story invites readers to solve the mystery along with the protagonist, piecing together a decades-traversing narrative, clip by clip. 

Sounds like a fascinating blend of history and story, doesn't it? I know it's going on my wish list!

Julie Smith
Julie Smith is probably better known for her mystery series starring Skip Langdon, a policewoman in New Orleans, Louisiana, but she's also written one featuring Rebecca Schwartz, a Jewish feminist lawyer in San Francisco, California.

Smith, a former reporter in both New Orleans and San Francisco lives in New Orleans where she's recently become a licensed private investigator.

The books in the Rebecca Schwartz series are: Death Turns a Trick (1982), The Sourdough Wars (1984), Tourist Trap (1986), Dead in the Water (1991) and Other People's Skeletons (1993).

A description of Death Turns a Trick says:

Rebecca Schwartz is a fairly normal Bay-area attorney. But when she almost gets busted for playing piano in a bordello, and Kandi, a part-time student-prostitute is killed in her home, and then the killer stalks Rebecca, it's time to take action--which is just what she does....

The book features tight writing, skill in building suspense, and is an unpretentious, fast-paced, fun read. Just what the crime fiction doc ordered, eh?

I hope you enjoyed the journey through the courts of law, courtesy of Celebrating Mysteries. Which books did you add to your own wish lists?

Join me next week when Jewish Heritage Month concludes with The Pros-- when I'll feature a few of the best cops, private eyes, and secret agents in the crime fiction business!

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