House of Smoke

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Synopsis

Successful corporate attorney Wyatt Matthews has gone and done the unthinkable – traded in the power and prestige of multimillion-dollar deal-making for the life of Public Defender in the gritty maze of the criminal courts system. Against the advice of his partners and the wishes of his wife, Wyatt takes on a seemingly unwinnable case: the defense of Marvin White, a young black man with a criminal record who has been accused of seven vicious rape-murders. With the city on the edge of panic, all odds are against White’s beating the rap – especially when he is identified at the scene of the latest slaying. The trial will exact a price higher than even Wyatt knows. With the State’s entire case resting on the airtight testimony of one key witness, he must assemble his own arsenal of unbeatable legal weapons. His most powerful ally is a black drug dealer who has his own shadowy reasons for offering to help clear White. As he plays for the highest stakes of all in a charged arena where class lines are drawn in blood, sex is used to distort the truth, and erupting racial tensions threaten to divide the city, Wyatt realizes that this is a case that goes beyond one man’s innocence or guilt. Forced to question his own hidden motives as his faith and loyalty are put to the ultimate test, he struggles to discover exactly where true justice lies.

Reviews

“Former Oakland cop Kate Blanchard has hung out her private-detective shingle in Santa Barbara after a bitter divorce cost her her job, her self-respect, and the custody of her two teenage daughters. Laura Sparks, the scion of the county’s oldest, wealthiest family, hires Kate to look into the death of her lover, Frank Bascomb. Frank had been the foreman of her family’s ranch until he died in the county jail after being arrested for smuggling marijuana through the family’s private dock. Laura’s mother, Miranda, wants Kate and Laura to drop their investigation, so as not to disrupt a lucrative oil deal involving the family’s land. Kate is thorough and conscientious and nearly winds up dead for her efforts. This excellent crime novel is very much in the Ross Macdonald tradition of old California money in deep trouble. Blanchard is a fascinating new detective, seriously flawed but always human; unfortunately, the last chapter seems to preclude her from being a series character. This would be a loss for all fans of the detective novel.”
George Needham – BookList

“After a shattering hostage situation, Kate Blanchard leaves the Oakland Police Department and an abusive cop husband for what she hopes will be a quieter life as a private investigator in Santa Barbara. However, when Laura Sparks, the youngest of the aristocratic Sparks women, hires Kate to investigate her boyfriend’s suicide, Kate discovers how violent and deadly the rich and powerful can be. Their patronage extends from local politicians to multinationals. Drugs, land deals, murder for hire, the Mexican mafia, and Vegas highfliers-all seem to have some bearing on this simple suicide. Kate finds the charm of the women as strong as their appetites, which are voracious if discreet. Freedman (Against the Wind, LJ 9/15/91) puts a feminist twist on the California P.I. novel in the tradition of Ross MacDonald and Raymond Chandler. For most popular collections.-Ann Donovan, Clearwater P.L., Fla.”
Library Journal

“From its first few pages, Freedman’s third novel (after Against the Wind) offers readers the feeling that they’re in the hands of a writer who can tell a good story and give them a protagonist worth caring about. Freedman takes the premise of what might be called the classic California mystery-a powerful monied family with a closet full of skeletons-and dresses it up in a swath of current fashions, including offshore oil drilling, battered wives and drug smuggling. The result is an exciting modern thriller with a classic feel, thanks in no small part to a spunky, all-too-human heroine who has her own deeply buried reasons for pursuing a case that everyone is telling her to drop. Ex-cop Kate Blanchard, now a Santa Barbara detective, is hired by Laura Sparks after her boyfriend, who is accused of drug smuggling, hangs himself in jail. Laura, the headstrong daughter of Miranda Sparks, the city’s biggest mover and shaker, is convinced that her boyfriend was innocent and that his death was no suicide. She’s only half right, but that’s enough to make somebody want to kill Kate-somebody who is involved with the Sparks family’s attempt to cut a secret deal with an oil company to use Sparks land for a slant-drilling operation. Plot, character, writing-everything is top-notch as Kate’s dogged pursuit of the truth results in a smart, detailed, fast-moving novel that is rewarding on all levels. (Jan.)”
Publisher’s Weekly

House Of Smoke…makes the heart leap…”
– Time Magazine

“An exciting modern thriller with a classic modern feel…Kate Blanchard’s dogged pursuit of the truth results in a smart, detailed, fast-moving novel that is rewarding on all levels.”
– Publisher’s Weekly

“A dandy thriller. The story has so many layers, the scenery so many textures, and the characters so much depth.”
– Cleveland Plain Dealer

“An immensely entertaining read.”
– Kirkus Reviews

“A vivid chronicle of wealth, promiscuity, and violence.”
– Chicago Tribune Key Witness

“A fast-paced, character-driven courtroom drama that is neatly plotted and maintains considerable suspense…”
– Santa Barbara News Press