January 7, 2013

book review: death turns a trick

A feminist lawyer must solve a murder whodunit in Julie Smith's Death Turns a Trick (read an excerpt of the book here).

Rebecca Schwartz is a well-bred lawyer in the San Francisco Bay area who tends to bore easily. That boredom leads her to a whorehouse where she is playing the piano for a party when she finds herself in the middle of a police raid. Grabbing the almost naked senator strapped to a bed behind closed doors, she ends up in jail after a fender bender in a borrowed car. Finally freed from her two-hour stay in the slammer, Rebecca goes home looking for some R&R only to find a dead prostitute in her apartment.

Still reeling from the shock of that, Rebecca is thrown another surprise when her new boyfriend is arrested for the murder. While she wars with whether or not he might have done it, she continues to look into the case, which also throws her in the path of a studly reporter.

This fast-paced first book in the Rebecca Schwartz series flew by. The story has excitement from page one, and even with a heavy dose of background in the first chapters, it's woven in the story's present well enough it did not seem too heavy.

At little more than 100 pages, it was easy -- and fast -- to dive into this story, much the way one would get into an episode of Law and Order: SVU. Actually, the plot itself could have been an episode of that show, but this book was written before that show, so it wins.

However, just like an episode of SVU, I knew who the murderer and the red herring would be in this story before the victim even dropped dead in Rebecca's apartment. I'm not saying that made this book predictable -- there were twists and turns I did not see coming -- and in all fairness, my siblings and I have watched enough crime shows and read enough mysteries that it usually doesn't take us more than a few minutes to have it solved.

Even though I was about 99 percent certain who did and who did not do it early on, the journey in this story was definitely worth the read. Rebecca is a fun and unique protagonist, and her little quirks set her apart from other narrators of mystery novels. In addition, the friendship she forges with an almost madam was something unexpected, even given the name of the book.

This story was also well written enough that I found myself not noticing or being bothered by the lack of technology and cell phones, because this book was written in 1992 and recently re-released. That's good story-telling.

I enjoyed Rebecca's story, and this exciting read offers a good foundation of a series of more stories to come.

Rating: 4 of 5

Be sure to check back tomorrow when the author stops by to share some details on what it was like researching a book that highlights prostitution. (It's a fascinating story!)

About the Author
New Orleans author Julie smith is a former journalist and the author of some 20 mysteries, including two series set in San Francisco and two in New Orleans. Her 1990 mystery, New Orleans Mourning, won the Edgar Award for Best Novel. Death Turns a Trick is the first book in the Rebecca Schwartz series.

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  1. Thanks for being in the tour!

  2. Many thanks, Laura! Glad you found it a fast read--music to a writer's ears--Julie