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This Case Is Gonna Kill Me by Phillipa Bornikova
Review by Drew Bittner
Tor Books Trade Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765326829
Date: 04 September 2012 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Publisher's Author Page / Show Official Info /

Linnet Ellery is a new associate in a "white fang" law firm. She has a great resume, impeccable recommendations and loads of legal skill--so why is she stuck working a dead-end case and treated like dirt by her colleagues? Thing is, that dead end case may well be the death of her after all.

In This Case is Gonna Kill Me, author Phillipa Bornikova crafts a tale of law, magic, undeath, and vendettas, with more than a dose of suspense and violence, and some romance for good measure.

Linnet starts work with Chip Westin, a third-tier associate whose only case is a family lawsuit against Securitech--an extremely lucrative private security firm founded by the family's father, who turned werewolf and was thus kicked out of the Army. The case has gone nowhere for years; Linnet expects it might well be the end of her career to work on it.

But when a horrific attack on the office occurs, Linnet begins to realize there may be more to this case than meets the eye. She investigates and unravels a tangled mess: a bitter and greedy family, an unscrupulous ambulance chaser seeking to make a tidy profit, and the rumor of a second will that nobody has ever seen.

Making matters worse, office politics (and a bit of random cruelty) conspire to ruin her reputation. Linnet does not take things meekly, however, and devises a clever, appropriate counterattack that not only wins her allies but also blunts the hostility of a senior partner.

As she progresses in her work, however, the violence that struck once hammers home again, taking the life of a crucial informant and destroying vital evidence. Linnet manages to escape through what seems the most absurd good luck, even with the help of charming PI John O'Shea, a sort of Alfar knight errant on retainer with her firm.

The deeper Linnet digs, the greater the danger. She has to hope that whatever is keeping her safe is up to the challenge, because it's clear somebody wants her dead...and will stop at nothing to make that happen.

Although this is officially Phillipa Bornikova's first novel, the same cannot be said for her alter ego, Melinda Snodgrass. Melinda is a highly accomplished novelist, editor and television story editor; she is also a former lawyer and an avid horsewoman (which plays a role in this story as well). Perhaps it is not surprising that this may be her most enjoyable novel yet. She brings an insider's perspective to describing the life of a young lawyer, yet never makes the story so "inside" that readers become lost, disinterested or confused by the practice of law. Indeed, it's an especially engaging part of the story.

Linnet is a great protagonist, with her share of issues, hang-ups and background to bring forward. She was fostered with a vampire family, giving her an "in" with a prestigious law firm. But her colleagues assume she was hired solely on that basis, which taints her new job from the start. Making friends and allies is difficult at best.

John O'Shea is an appealing foil for Linnet as well, offering help where needed but careful not to overstep his bounds. He's a strong contrast to another character (whom I won't name, lest it spoil the story), and the way his story shapes up points strongly at the substance of a much-anticipated sequel.

The "villain" is largely off-screen in the story, which seems oddly appropriate. Linnet is fighting this battle through the courts, and that does not offer much face-to-face outside that venue, but readers will have little doubt once the story gathers steam who is who. Instead, Linnet's struggle is mostly against the puzzle pieces that never seem to add up, with several motives but no certain outcome. It's a great bit of storytelling and really uses the law effectively, which many books bluff their way through instead.

This Case is a terrific read and is certain to please fans of urban fantasy, especially the sort that takes the genre to new places within the "real world" as well as the fantastic.

Highly recommended.

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