MURDER ON THE DOWN LOW
By Pamela Samuels Young
Goldman House, 2008, $14.95
Pamela Samuels Young knows the law and she knows the mystery-suspense genre. Now, in her third legal thriller, featuring attorney Vernetta Henderson, Young wrestles with a controversial social issue. But it’s not at the expense of her intricate plotting, memorable characters and intense action that readers have come to expect.
A series of apparently unconnected murders of affluent African-American men in Los Angeles has citizens as well as the police department on edge. From her preliminary investigation, LAPD Detective J. C. Sparks suspects a deeper motive than racial prejudice, but someone in the department has told her to back off.
At a funeral across town Vernetta Henderson, best friend Special Moore, sister attorney Nichelle Ayers, and J.C. mourn the death of a close friend, the victim of a different sort of crime. Maya died of AIDS, contracted from her secretly gay husband who got the HIV virus from one of his homosexual lovers… and failed to inform her.
The friends are outraged at how this “on the down low” creep killed Maya and got away with it. Determined to make him pay, they meet together with Maya’s mother to plan their revenge. But Special, who was cousin to Maya, has more in mind than a wrongful death suit. After publicly exposing the man’s lifestyle and accusing him of murder, she secretly – and viciously – begins to harass him. But later, when she is arrested and charged, it’s for much more than harassment.
As Vernetta and Nichelle research for the civil suit and Special’s criminal defense, they find a shocking link to the citywide murders. Suddenly J.C.’s investigation is hot again, and time is running out for Special.
With shades of James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club, the four women use their skills to find justice in a world of deceit, addiction, prejudice and fear, where there are many motives and opportunities for murder.
Whether in the courtroom, the police station, a church or a private bedroom, Young writes with a confidence that comes from first-hand experience and extensive research. And her passion for injustice and the issues that effect women is seen strongly in MURDER IN THE DOWN LOW.
By Pamela Samuels-Young
Reviewed by Jackie Houchin
Los Angeles attorney, Vernetta Henderson is on the partner track. She’s a lone black woman in an all male firm; but her case record is good and the managing partner is her mentor, so she’s confident she’ll make it.
That is, until a highly visible case she’s working on goes bad. Her client is a powerful company who is being sued by the employee they dismissed for sexual harassment. Traditionally they have refused to accept settlements, so Vernetta rejects an extremely low offer, believing she could easily win in court. But when new evidence surfaces, the company suddenly wants her to settle…at any cost. She is unable to negotiate a settlement with the new opposing counsel, and is dismissed from the case.
Her chances at partnership fade even more when a self-important junior associate circulates slanderous rumors about her. And when she most needs support from her husband, he has problems of his own with a sexy young secretary who’s making threats.
Despite stress in her career and personal life, Vernetta is more troubled about several discrepancies in her former client’s case. At the insistence of her best friend – but against her better judgment – she reluctantly begins to investigate. What she discovers puts lives in danger, including her own. Can she “argue” her way out of this one, or will she become just another statistic?
Pamela Samuels-Young has written a fast paced, legal thriller with a fascinating plot and a strong female protagonist. She’s packed her book with tense, dramatic scenes and flashy, memorable characters. She is just as comfortable writing legal dialogue (without sounding pompous) as she is writing sexy “sister talk.” And she handles touchy African-American workplace issues with style.