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Posts Tagged ‘female lawyer’

DEATH ON TELEGRAPH HILL by Shirley Tallman: Book Review

Sarah Woolson is the third woman licensed as an attorney in California.  Everywhere she goes, men and women are astonished to find out there is such a being–a woman and a lawyer, an impossible combination to many in San Francisco in the year 1882.  But Sarah is intelligent, ambitious, and not about to give in to those who believe it’s impossible for a woman to be a lawyer.  And once she takes a case, she will not give up.

Sarah lives with her parents, her single younger brother, and her married older brother and his family in the elegant Woolson family home.  Much as she loves her family, Sarah is anxious for her practice to be successful enough for her to rent her own rooms, away from the over-anxious eyes of her parents.  But that day isn’t here yet.

As Sarah and her brother Samuel are returning with a group from a literary function featuring the Irish poet Oscar Wilde at the home of newspaper publisher Mortimer Remy, Samuel is shot and wounded.  The police and several others in the party believe it to be an accident, a resident of Telegraph Hill shooting at a small animal in the dark, not an unusual occurrence.  Sarah’s not convinced and is even less willing to believe in the accident theory when, several days later, the body of a Telegraph Hill resident who also attended Mortimer’s party is found hanging from a tree.

The police lieutenant in charge of the case calls the death a suicide, but Sarah’s friend Sergeant George Lewis of the city’s police department agrees with Sarah. However, there’s little to go on until another body turns up.

Death on Telegraph Hill paints a detailed picture of San Francisco more than a century and a quarter ago.  Sarah is definitely a woman ahead of her time, a woman who has coolly decided on a career rather than marriage and children.  But then there’s Robert Campbell, another attorney, who is trying to change her mind about the marriage part of her decision.  There’s a large cast of characters including younger brother Samuel; Sarah’s friend, the woman she rents office space from, Fanny Goodman; the young Eddie Cooper, a teenaged carriage driver who is always anxious to help Sarah; and the several people who were at the reception the night that Samuel was shot.  Each one has a distinct personality and helps bring the novel to life.

And the picture of Oscar Wilde is hilarious.  Although well-known in literary circles, he’s definitely not what people are used to in San Francisco; the locals don’t know what to make of him.  “Attired in a maroon velvet smoking jacket edged with braid, a lavender silk shirt, flowing green cravat, knee breeches, and black shoes with silver buckets….”  Well, you get the idea.  Apparently his sexual preferences have made their way across the ocean, and some rude comments about that were also voiced by his audience.  However, Oscar remains impervious; he probably has heard similar jeers and insults before.

This is the fifth mystery in the Sarah Woolson series but only the first I’ve read.  So the good news is that I have four more novels in this excellent series waiting for me.

You can read more about Shirley Tallman at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at her web site.

LADY KILLER by Lisa Scottoline: Book Review

Mary DiNunzio is a successful lawyer in an all-women law firm in Philadelphia. She’s smart, compassionate, hasn’t forgotten where she came from, and is the rainmaker of the firm.  So why is she so intimidated by a visit from her high school nemesis, Trish Gambone, who led the Mean Girls and made Mary’s life miserable at St. Maria Goretti High?   But then, don’t we all carry our high school memories with us forever?

Trish is in trouble, big time, which is why she found her way to Mary’s office. She’s been living with Bobby, her high school sweetheart for years, but he’s become more and more abusive toward her.  She’d love to leave him, but he’s “connected” (a low-level member of the Philadelphia mob).  And Trish is afraid that Bobby is going to propose tonight, as it’s her birthday.

She’s come to Mary for help, but she doesn’t like the options that Mary offers:  get a restraining order against Bobby or leave Philly for a while in hopes that Bobby will cool off and forget her.  She storms out of the office, leaving a stunned Mary behind.  What Trish doesn’t know is that Mary and Bobby went out together for a short while in high school, and he was Mary’s first love.  Mary’s upset that Bobby has become a brutal man, upset to find out that she’s still afraid of Trish and the Mean Girls, upset to find that she still harbors feelings for Bobby for a reason that doesn’t become clear until well into the novel.

And that night, the night of her birthday, Trish disappears. The remaining three Mean Girls stomp into Mary’s office the next day, furious at Mary for not helping Trish.  They’d gone to the police, but since Trish was an adult and hadn’t been missing for the required forty-eight hours, they couldn’t do anything yet.  So the Mean Girls want Mary to fix everything.  They refuse to admit that Trish might be dead, they just want her found.

Feeling guilty, Mary agrees to help and enlists the M.G.s in her search. But her involvement means putting off several of her clients from her old neighborhood, and before she knows what’s happened her former neighbors are turning against her.  They’re mad she didn’t help Trish, one of their own, and mad that her search for Trish means she’s putting off their cases.  It doesn’t make sense, but then emotions rarely do.

In addition to looking for Trish, Mary is also involved with a young boy who’s being bullied at school and whom his mother feels has significant learning disabilities.  Mary’s attempts to try to find a psychologist to test him speak to the all-too-real inadequacies and limitations of today’s schools, given the economic times and the number of children who need help.

And then there’s the possibility of a romance with the son of a neighbor. Mary’s husband died several years ago, but she’s not sure she’s ready for another romance in her life.  But Anthony is good looking, smart, and a terrific cook.  What should she do?  And why did he have to come along when Mary is frantic over the possibility that she is partly responsible for Trish’s disappearance and possible death?

Lisa Scottoline is a prolific writer, the author of eighteen novels, many featuring the women of Rosato and Associates, the firm where Mary works. She also writes a weekly column called “Chick Wit” for the Philadelphia Inquirer.   Although her books tackle serious subjects, they’re written with a sense of humor that keeps them somewhat closer to the “cozy” path than the “violent” one.

You can read more about Lisa Scottoline at her web site.