Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Murder by Another Name by Jo Stone

Murder by Another Name
I recently received a review copy of Jo Stone's new book, and had a few thoughts to share. This novel predominantly follows the story of a lawsuit brought by Janet Stephenson, lawyer for plaintiffs Pam and Larry Lawson, against PolySurgical Specialties, or PSS, claiming damages for adverse effects suffered due to Pam receiving breast implants manufactured by them which had not been adequately tested by the FDA. In a parallel story line, there is an ongoing grand jury investigation into the death of Sherri Barker, a sales rep of sorts for PSS, who was murdered by car bomb after delivering documents incriminating to PSS to Pam's doctor, Dan MacNamara.

The story of Pam and her lawsuit is compelling, and I believe Mrs. Stone has brought a great deal of the expertise she gained as a lawyer pursuing similar claims into play to provide a high level of detail on the issue of breast implants and the complications that arise from them. I really felt moved by the Lawsons' plight in this book, and really wanted them to be granted justice from the "evil" corporation. Stone also writes in great and loving detail about the process of a civil trial, and it was interesting to see how that differs from TV's portrayal of lawyers and the law.

One thing that was a little disappointing was that the villains in this piece were brought to justice far more quickly than I thought would happen. It might have been a more effective thriller if they'd remained at large, and dangerous, for a bit longer. It would have kept some of the protagonists looking over their shoulders, waiting for the hammer to fall, if the killers had remained at large. Also, it seemed like the killers weren't all that bright. I expected more cleverness from fictional killers, I guess, though my friends who are cops tell me that most criminals aren't all that bright, and get caught by making stupid mistakes. Perhaps Mrs. Stone's experience as a lawyer kept her a little too close to reality on this one.

The only other flaw in the novel was that it could have benefited from better editing, resulting in more rapid pacing and flow. Some of the scenes where, for example, a group of lawyers meets after a day in court, to rehash their day, could have been eliminated, most likely, without hurting things at all. Hey, it ain't Grisham at his finest, but Jo Stone is definitely an author to keep an eye on!

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