"What the hell did I do to deserve this? Was the circus in town? Maybe I could run away and join it. They could surely use another clown."

There’s a lot to be said for this legal thriller that puts as much emphasis on the thrills as it does the legalities. It’s well paced, intricately plotted, and liberally sprinkled with salty language and sordid behavior. Plus it promotes the virtues of loyalty and love, even though they often come at horrendous costs.

Kristen is an attorney in Dallas. She used to work for a firm that specialized in defending hospitals. Now she’s bringing a case against a hospital she once defended. A private investigator is rounding up plaintiffs and sending them to Kristen—provided she gives him a big kickback on the final judgment. For all sorts of reasons Kristen eventually agrees. Then the P. I. is murdered and Kristen is the prime suspect. She’s also being threatened, stalked, and framed—all while involved with an ex-lover and his emotionally vulnerable daughter.

Kristen’s story is constructed on the back of a novel that preceded this one. Many characters from that initial story are reprised here. It’s not necessary to be familiar with the first book to enjoy the second. The author does an admirable job of weaving in enough backstory to provide insights into various characters’ traits and motivations. Writing in the first person, Clark endows his heroine with an inner voice that sounds more like a hardboiled gumshoe than a contemporary thirty-something attorney. If you can get past that however, you’ll no doubt be engaged and entertained by all the legal wrangling, lovemaking, revelations, mayhem, and murder, that make up this frequently tantalizing tale of suspense.

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