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MONEY CREEK by Anne Laughlin: Book Review

The lure of drugs as well as what one will do to get them is at the heart of Anne Laughlin’s MONEY CREEK.  It’s painful reading, but unfortunately it’s a story that is all too familiar to many, either through personal experience or through general knowledge.  Either way, Clare Lehane’s story is one that will resonate with the readers of the author’s latest mystery.

The novel’s prologue sets the scene for what follows.  Clare is at a remote cabin in the woods, where she has gone with Henry, her new drug supplier.  He has insisted she accompany him there and meet the people in his circle.  Almost as soon as they arrive Henry leaves, and Clare is left with three people she doesn’t know.  Angry, yet needing to stay until she gets the drugs she came for, Clare leaves the living room to use the bathroom, and while she’s there gunshots erupt.

Walking back to the living room, she sees three bloody bodies lying on the floor.  After checking that the gunman is gone, she quickly leaves the cabin and calls the police from a pay phone.  Although the last thing she wants is to get involved and to have to explain what she was doing there, her guilt adds to her already distraught state of mind and increases her desire for drugs and, when they are not readily available, alcohol.

The backstory explains how Clare finds herself in this horrific place.  She is a young lawyer, working for a “white shoe” law firm in Chicago.  The term, according to Google, refers to the most prestigious employers in elite professions, and the Windy City law firm where she is a first-year associate is definitely that.  Clare is realizing that the only way she can keep up with the 70-80 hours of work demanded of her each week is to continue what she started while a law school student–taking Adderall to give her more energy and a longer attention span during the day, then taking Valium to relax her at night.  And she discovers she can’t function without either or both.

In a desperate effort to start a new life, she quits her job and moves to a small law firm in southern Illinois.  She actually goes so far as to flush her entire drug supply down the toilet after she arrives there, but she almost immediately realizes that this hasn’t solved her addiction problem.  In fact, she is so desperate that her only recourse is to go to the college in the small town of Money Creek in hopes of finding a student/dealer to resupply her.

It doesn’t take more than a few minutes before she meets Henry, a student who is the go-to man on campus when one is looking for drugs.  Despite her intention of quitting, after just one day she’s so desperate for speed that she agrees to have sex with him if he will provide her with what she needs.

Money Creek is a thought-provoking book with a flawed protagonist, one whom you want to succeed.  Reading Clare’s story evokes both despair and hope.  Despair because I felt she was losing her promising life and career to her addiction, hope because she so desperately wants to conquer her need for drugs that I was rooting for her to do so.

You can read more about Anne Laughlin at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

BLOOD MONEY by James Grippando: Book Review

Jack Swyteck is the attorney for the trial of the twenty-first century in James Grippando’s latest thriller, Blood MoneyThe story, which is similar to a spectacular trial that was recently in the headlines, has twists that will keep the reader turning the pages of the novel faster and faster until the ending is reached.

Sydney Bennett is on trial for her life for the murder of her daughter Emma, two years old at the time of her disappearance.  As the prosecution tells it, Sydney liked life in the fast lane, and her young daughter was cramping her style.  After her daughter disappeared from their home, Sydney was photographed drinking and bar-hopping and apparently showing no sorrow.  Then, three years later, Emma’s body was discovered in a shallow grave in the Everglades.

Although a time and even a cause of death were never discovered due to the length of time between the child’s disappearance and the discovery of her body, public opinion agrees that Sydney is guilty.  When the book opens, on the day the verdict is to be delivered, hundreds of protestors are outside the courthouse with signs demanding “Justice for Emma,” by which they mean the death penalty for Sydney.

But when the verdict is announced, virtually everyone is stunned–Not Guilty.  And then chaos ensues.

Leading the media frenzy surrounding the arrest and trial is Faith Corso, a former prosecutor and current personality on the BNN network.  Throughout the trial Faith has demonized Sydney, giving her the now-famous nickname of Shot Mom (for the whiskey shots she was photographed drinking after Emma’s disappearance).

It’s easy to hate Sydney, given the severity of the crime she’s accused of, her posturing in court, and her refusal to say anything more to her lawyer than that she’s innocent.  And when she realizes that she and Jack are not on the same page regarding her future–she sees herself giving interviews at one hundred thousand dollars per and perhaps being the subject of a television movie as well–they come to a parting of the ways.  His injunction that Sydney needs to keep a low profile seems to fall on deaf ears.

The picture gets even bleaker.  Jack has arranged for Sydney to leave the Miami-Dade Women’s Correction Center under cover of night, trying to avoid the large crowd that is camped in front of the prison.  Egged on by one of BNN’s reporters, the crowd is hostile and dangerous, waiting for Sydney’s release.  Shouting “no blood money” over and over, the people are whipping themselves into a fever when one of them believes she has spotted Sydney walking out the jail’s door.  The crowd surges over the woman and knocks her to the ground. But when the people are forcibly disbursed by the police, it’s discovered that the woman is not Sydney Bennett but a younger woman who looks much like her, and Sydney is nowhere to be seen.

Many of the novel’s most unpleasant characters, unfortunately, are totally believable.  Sydney, even years after her daughter’s death, expresses nothing that could charitably be called maternal instinct; her only thoughts are how best to promote herself and earn big money.  Her father is a bully who refuses to allow his wife to speak to Jack.  Faith Corso is a media star whose only interest appears to be the story, regardless of whether the story is factual or not.  And the head of the BNN network will literally stop at nothing to boost the ratings of his programs.

Blood Money is the tenth novel in James Grippando’s Jack Swyteck series.  You can read more about the author at this web site.

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