Midwest Book Review: A Model Murder by Celia Conrad
IN LAW FIRMS, NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU SCREAM...
Midwest Book Review "Reader's Choice": http://www.midwestbookreview.com/rbw/aug_14.htm
He told me he was used to getting what he wanted...
--A Model Murder, Celia Conrad
What do law firms and men’s “hostess” clubs have in common? If your first thought is “alpha males,” you’re already on board with A Model Murder. Conrad draws disturbing, often painfully entertaining, parallels between these two worlds where Neanderthals still roam the Earth, and a resistant female might get a bop on the head or worse.
A Model Murder is a fast-paced suspense mystery, full of twists and turns, following in the tradition of Nicci French and Sue Grafton.
Alicia Allen is a London-based Anglo-Italian lawyer on the verge of her 30th birthday whose experience of Death has been limited to sorting estate issues...until her beautiful Australian neighbor and wannabe model, Tammy, turns up raped and murdered before she can collect her first paycheck from the job she wants to quit in a sleazy men’s club.
British author Conrad has painted a loving portrait of the multi-cultural melting pot that is London and her down-to-earth heroine who has no superpowers of intuition and deduction, but is quite simply a good neighbor who will stop at nothing until a wrong is made right.
Lack of police progress propels Alicia towards finding Tammy’s murderer herself. The Shakespearean character of Portia (Merchant of Venice) is mentioned, and indeed Alicia does resemble that legendary defense attorney. Her “quality of mercy is not strained” as she single-mindedly focuses on solving this horrible murder. Using her honed skills of observation and detail-awareness, she finds clues even in opera. Breaking and entering to gather evidence? No problem.
When Alicia coincidentally finds herself in a life-threatening work situation from a mad-dog senior partner, the link between sociopaths who legally run law firms and take unfair advantage of women “underlings” and the sociopaths who run illegal prostitution rackets solidifies.
Of course the crazier and nastier the law firm environment, the more fun. Conrad also makes the fair point that women in both arenas can also harass their female coworkers. All the better to keep readers guessing whodunit!
Red herrings swim among Alicia’s true friends who are the mainstay of her life. Will that Robert Redford-type lawyer who wows the ladies at her office be The One or is he somehow responsible for Tammy’s untimely demise?
Will Alicia pick the true-blue “best friend” who shares her Italian heritage or the office lover-boy who makes her knees weak while he quotes Shakespeare? That Conrad keeps all these balls in the air until the story’s breathtaking and very scary conclusion is a testament to her marvelous instincts as a storyteller extraordinaire.
Women make this plot twirl on its axis; so there has to be food. I found myself wanting Pringles (Alicia's one addiction), pizza, salad nicoise, pasta primavera, and high tea with succulent scones throughout the adventure. Not necessarily in that order.
Full disclosure: I toiled in law firms for years as a secretary, and I had a friend who worked in a pole-dancing club in Los Angeles. So this harrowing, occasionally satirical, murder mystery hit a nerve and my funny bone at the same time.
PS to American Readers: Keep your English to English Dictionary handy! Alicia eats chips from a tube and then rides on one...but I just have to love a language and a country where women can be "well upholstered."
I am eagerly looking forward to reading the other two books in this Alicia Allen Investigates Trilogy: A Wilful Murder (Book 2) and Murder in Hand (Book 3).
Originally published in Dancing in the Experience Lane Blog: http://open.salon.com/blog/marlan_warren