BookBrowse Reviews Her Kind of Case by Jeanne Winer

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Her Kind of Case

A Lee Isaacs, Esq. Novel

by Jeanne Winer

Her Kind of Case by Jeanne Winer X
Her Kind of Case by Jeanne Winer
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  • Published:
    Aug 2018, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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In this first installment in a series, attorney Lee Isaacs faces one of the toughest cases of her career defending a teenage skinhead accused of murder.

Jeanne Winer's sophomore novel (after 2012's The Furthest City, also about a female lawyer) introduces readers to criminal defense attorney Lee Isaacs. After losing a huge case and about to turn 60, the lawyer is wondering if it's time to retire when she's approached by a woman whose nephew is accused of a heinous crime. "I've called around and the lawyers I spoke to thought this was your kind of case," the woman tells her. "Difficult, seemingly hopeless, emotionally draining cases that turn your hair silver," Lee interprets silently. Jeremy, a minor, is accused of taking part in a "boot party" planned by his much older skinhead friends, during which a gay man was stomped to death - something his aunt doesn't think he could possibly have done. Lee agrees to take the job, and so begins this page-turning courtroom drama.

Winer's writing is unrelentingly superb as the novel progresses, astutely capturing the intricacies of defending someone accused of murder:

It took a great deal of skill and persistence to defend an accused killer, to personalize someone whom everyone else in the system referred to as "the defendant." Understandably, people wanted to do the same thing to an accused that he or she had done to a victim: dehumanize him. It was Lee's job to keep that from happening; to do that, she had to find something sympathetic, or at least pitiable, about her client and then, no other way to say it, exploit it.

No matter how well-written, though, genre-specific novels such as this one are completely dependent on an author's ability to create a main character that readers find interesting, as well as someone they like and can relate to; Lee Isaacs is one such protagonist. She's a complex figure, simultaneously confident in her abilities and afraid of failure; a kick-ass, take-no-prisoners type of woman that one can't help cheering for, with hidden vulnerabilities that make her more sympathetic. And Lee isn't the only stand-out character; Winer imbues nearly all her creations with huge personalities that make them feel real and keep readers hooked.

The basic outline of the plot follows the standard story arc of this type of legal novel, and is in some respects a bit predictable. The author skillfully interweaves other themes to make it more entertaining, discussing topics such as aging and how some react to it, relationships and loss, risk-taking, and LGBT issues, among others. Lee's best friends, for example, are a gay couple who are anything but supportive of her case, "Everyone, including us, wants you to fail," one of them tells her, sparking a heated debate surrounding her oath to defend her client. While some aspects of these sub-plots are spot-on, such as Lee's response to aging, others, such as her friendship with these two men, feel a bit forced, as if their inclusion was solely a means for the author to introduce specific subjects. If the rest of the characters and relationships in the novel hadn't felt so real, I'm not sure I would have noticed something like this, and even so, it's a minor weakness that impacted my opinion of the book only slightly.

I'm excited that this is the first novel in a series. I hadn't had enough of Lee by the end of Her Kind of Case, and the author foreshadows possible future developments in her life. I sincerely look forward to Winer's next entry. This is a great, fast read for those who enjoy an entertaining law drama, and the weightier themes make it a good book group selection.

Reviewed by Kim Kovacs

This review is from the Her Kind of Case. It first ran in the May 29, 2019 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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