“I hate Jenna.” I wrote that to my friend, Santa Monica attorney Charles Rosenberg, by the time I got to page 21 of his lawyerthriller Death on a High Floor. I still didn’t like Jenna much by the end of the book, but by then the facts, and my feelings, had become more complicated.
Because I have not read many mystery novels since my Nancy Drew phase in the early 1960s, I cannot tell you how Rosenberg’s book stacks up against the competition. But I have read more than a few books by and about lawyers, both fiction and nonfiction. This one stands out because it made me laugh, made me cringe, and did not (with one exception) embarrass me in its portrayal of how lawyering really works.
Might as well get the exception out of the way. Intolerable conflict of interest. A lawyer as experienced and wealthy as the defendant should have known better. A lawyer as street smart as the older defense lawyer should have put a foot down. A lawyer as clever as the junior defense lawyer should have had the guts to back out. (Note to self: In reviewing a mystery, use neutral pronouns so as not to give away any secrets.)
Caricature is the exaggeration of some characteristics and oversimplification of others. Lawyers willing to suspend a little disbelief will like Death on a High Floor because it combines exaggeration and oversimplification of BigLaw, office politics, cocky lawyers, predatory news media, corrupt law enforcement and spot-on depictions of clients who don’t follow their lawyers’ advice. And while some plot twists seemed far-fetched to me, maybe thing like them have happened to others. I do know that the book’s information about ancient Roman coins is accurate.
Continue reading – March 2012 CITATIONS
Wendy Lascher is an appellate lawyer and partner in Ventura’s Ferguson Case Orr Paterson LLP. She is the editor of CITATIONS.