Review: Conduct In Question: The First Of A Trilogy

By: Norm Goldman
Author: Mary E. Martin

ISBN: O595358209

The following review was contributed by: NORM GOLDMAN:  Editor of Bookpleasures. CLICK TO VIEW  Norm Goldman's Reviews   


Toronto based author Mary E. Martin, who at one time practiced law in a small estates firm, has made a promising foray into the mystery arena with her debut novel Conduct in Question: The First In A Trilogy.

Martin's principal protagonist, Harry Jenkins, is portrayed as an honest and sincere general family solicitor specializing in estate law, who finds himself over his head, as he becomes innocently involved in money laundering and murder.

The story unfolds when Jenkins witnesses his partner Richard Crawford drop dead in front of him, as a result of a massive heart attack-leaving Jenkins the sole remaining partner in the law firm of Crane, Crawford and Jenkins.

Prior to his death, Crawford had instructed Jenkins to draw up a trust for one of the firm's clients, Marjorie Deighton. Jenkins had also just received a retainer of two hundred thousand dollars from a new client, Albert Chin, who had been referred to him by one of his colleagues. The sum was to be used to purchase several parcels of land that were located very near Marjorie Deighton's property.

Jenkins suspects something fishy, however, the lure of earning some “big bucks" causes him to turn a blind eye and not to delve too closely into the source of these funds or the client's motives as to why he wishes to purchase the real estate.

When Jenkins tries to deposit the two hundred thousand dollars in his trust account, the teller informs him that the assistant manager, Mr. Mudhali, wishes to have a word with him. After being ushered into Mudhali's office, Jenkins is informed that the firm's line of credit of fifty thousand dollars is in arrears and in order for him to deposit the two hundred thousand dollars he will be required to immediately repay the arrears. Completely taken aback, Jenkins is further astonished to discover that Crawford pledged the firm's account as his own personal line of credit for a loan of five hundred thousand dollars. How was this possible without Jenkin's signature?

Placed into a very difficult situation, Jenkins realizes that if he fails to clear the arrears, the trust account would be frozen and he would be obliged to return the retainer to Chin. Against his better judgment, Jenkins uses fifty thousand dollars of the trust funds to pay the arrears and the balance he deposits into the firm's trust account.

While all of this is going on, we learn that there is a serial killer on the loose in Toronto named the florist , who after murdering his victims, carves rose petals on their bodies. To add a little more suspense, Marjorie Deighton dies under very suspicious circumstances, leaving as her legatees her two nieces, Katherine and Suzannah and a nephew, Gerry. However, complicating matters is that Marjorie Deighton's last will, that was prepared by Harry Jenkins, seems to have been misplaced, lost or stolen. The previous will had bequeathed the house to her niece Suzannah, while the last will had the estate divided into three equal shares, including the house.

Martin whips up a highly original plot spicing it with a mix of some psychological horror. All of the characters are subtly interwoven into the threads of the story, and with its quick pace and gruesome detailsFree Reprint Articles, the novel is an auspicious inauguration to Martin's trilogy. 

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