Thomas & Mercer, 2016, 480 pages
Hollywood's latest blockbuster is all set to premiere - until a faded superstar claims the script was stolen from her. To defend the studio, in steps the Harold Firm, one of Los Angeles's top entertainment litigation firms and as much a part of the glamorous scene as the studios themselves. As a newly minted partner, it's Rory Calburton's case, and his career, to win or lose.
But the seemingly tame civil trial turns lethal when Rory stumbles upon the strangled body of his client's general counsel. And the ties that bind in Hollywood constrict even tighter when the founder of the Harold Firm is implicated in the murder. Rory is certain the plagiarism and murder cases are somehow connected, and with the help of new associate Sarah Gold - who's just finished clerking for the chief justice - he's determined to get answers. Will finding out who really wrote the script lead them to the mastermind of the real-life murder?
The murder victim is a lawyer, so that's an immediate plus, right?
Rory Calburton, who has just been made partner in a prestigious LA law firm, is the kind of guy who finds lawyer jokes unhumorous. In fact, he really doesn't have much of a sense of humor. He's about as buttoned-down as a lawyer can be, but as this surprisingly interesting little legal thriller progresses, his character does begin to unfold. He's got some insecurities, for example, over the fact that he got his law degree from an unaccredited school and he had to work his way up the hard way. He's also not averse to shagging an investigative reporter who happens to be reporting on his firm - something that causes him a few problems in the board room.
The really interesting character, however, is Sarah Gold, who comes to the Harold Firm as a fresh young associate with a brilliant pedigree as a former clerk to a Supreme Justice. It turns out that Sarah has something called "Impulse Control Disorder" (which I had to Google to determine that it's a real thing). It's not that she acts without thinking - she thinks about what she's going to do, knows it's a bad idea, and then does it anyway.
This rubs Rory the wrong way, and for half the book he's threatening to fire her. They are also both denying their mutual attraction to one another. And when he investigates a mysterious two-year gap in her resume, she claims that she spent it as a cocktail waitress, but another source tells him he thinks she's a CIA operative.
That last bit was a real "Huh?" in the middle of the book, and since it doesn't go anywhere, I have to think the author plans a sequel.
The two legal cases are a faded Hollywood star claiming that an impending big movie's script was actually written by her, and Rory's own senior partner/boss being accused of murdering another lawyer who was the in-house counsel to the studio their firm is representing. Rory, rather improbably, winds up defending his boss in the murder trial despite not being a criminal defense lawyer, and the two cases intersect in a not-totally-unpredictable ending.
Charles Rosenberg is - surprise! - a big-name entertainment lawyer himself. This author thing may be just a side gig he's doing for fun, but I liked Write to Die enough to look up more of his books. The writing itself is not spectacular - it's plain, almost workmanlike, with characters described, and their dialog written, in a manner that sounds very much like something written by a lawyer. There is a lot of exposition devoted to explaining fine legal details - if you find that sort of technical detail tedious (much like SF fans who don't care to hear about engineering details or weapon calibers) then this book will probably bore you, as the legal details drive much of the drama. But if you like legal thrillers that don't spare you the blood and guts of jurisprudence and courtroom procedures, then this is a book with a pretty good plot that will hold your interest.
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