Friday, May 26, 2017

Review of "Due Justice" by Diane Capri




In this first book in the 'Judge Willa Carson series', we learn that Willa lives on Plant Key - near Tampa, Florida - with her restaurateur husband George. The couple are wealthy and have a lovely apartment above George's upscale eatery, where the local glitterati are frequent guests. In between judging cases, Willa visits with friends and relatives, meets people for coffee and drinks, goes to parties, smokes cigars, jogs, plays with her two dogs, and shares quiet time with her loving husband.

The biggest fly in Willa's ointment is her boss, the Chief Judge (CJ), who holds a grudge because Willa once accidently took his parking space. The low-key 'feud' between Willa and the CJ injects humorous elements into the story.

The plot: Federal Judge Willa Carson knows something is up as soon as her foster sister, Carly Austin - whom she hasn't seen in a year - ambushes her at home. Carly confides that an unidentified body pulled out of Tampa Bay might be Dr. Michael Morgan, a plastic surgeon who's been missing for a month. Morgan was on the team that developed silicone breast implants, which he's surgically embedded into the chests of thousands of women.....for a very handsome income.

After dropping this bombshell, Carly - an attorney for the breast implant manufacturer MedPro - hurries off and becomes unreachable. Willa knows she should tell Police Chief Ben Hathaway that the body might be Morgan, but - fearing her foster sister might be in trouble - keeps schtum. When the news emerges that the body was Morgan and that he was murdered, Willa becomes even more antsy and launches her own investigation. Willa spends a good deal of time trying to track down Carly, but the lawyer is elusive, tells a lot of lies, and keeps running away. (I kept thinking, Willa has to cut this unreliable fruitcake loose and go to the cops. Seriously!)

As it happens, many lawsuits have been filed about breast implants, claiming silicone leakage has made women sick. These lawsuits are a cottage industry in Tampa, with attorneys for the plaintiffs (the injured women) as well as the defendants (the implant manufacturers) all hoping to reap millions of dollars in fees. Apparently, Dr. Morgan thought he could PROVE the implants were safe, which might derail all the lawsuits. Could this be a motive for murder?

The book has a lot of chatter about lawyers, doctors, and other interested parties on both sides of the implant debate: their rivalries, love lives, infidelities, money troubles, and so on - and it becomes difficult to keep track of all the characters. In addition, the plot contains multiple blackmailers and victims, which adds to the confusion. In her quest to gather clues, Willa interacts with many of these folks, sometimes on the golf course - where she hears a lot of snide remarks about her game. (Ha ha ha) Nevertheless, Willa perseveres, and eventually discovers who killed Morgan.

I have some quibbles with the story:

At one point, Willa threatens to file a restraining order so the cops can't investigate Carly. This is SO illegal....it's impossible to believe.

The characters in the story, including Willa, drink a lot (okay, that's normal social interaction.) However, they DRINK AND DRIVE. In one scene, George polishes off a few cocktails before driving Willa to a party, and in another scene, Willa consumes half a bottle of wine before taking to the road. The book is set in 1999, but Mother's Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was established in 1980. So it's hard to believe the characters are so nonchalant about this.

After all the hemming and hawing about breast implants and women becoming ill, the reason for Morgan's murder is anti-climactic and not altogether satisfying.

Though it has flaws, the book held my attention and I learned quite a bit about breast implants - which are especially important to women who've had mastectomies. Also, Willa is an interesting character and south Florida is a nice setting. So, it you're a fan of cozies, you might want to try this series.

I received this book as a prize from the the "Women of Mystery" reading group on "Goodreads." Thank you!

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