Review by: Robert Denson for The Sunpiper Press Book Review
When I think of successful, modern-day, mystery writers, I think of Stephen King, John Grisham, Walter Mosley, Dean Koontz, James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell. The ability to interject realism into a mystery novel makes it an extremely difficult genre to enter. Some would say that there simply is not enough room in this area to lend admission to a new writer. Whether there is room in the literary community or not, space must be made for Mary E. Martin.
Canadian attorney, Mary E. Martin can not only ‘hold her own’ with each and every one of these authors, but her ability, at times, outshines them all.
In her breakout novel, Conduct in Question, Martin introduces readers to a hard-working, honest attorney, Harry Jenkins. Harry is the legal machine behind the success of his firm, yet he has always played second fiddle to his law partner, Richard Crawford. Though Harry is constantly prodded by his spoiled wife for ‘carrying more about his clients than earning money’, he remains complacent with his career and applies no pressure upon himself to excel in his finances. Though Harry is not completely happy, he continues in this role until, in less than a week, his life takes a roller coaster track of unavoidable detours. [Read more . . .]
Review by: Norm Goldman for Book Pleasures.com
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 details, the novel is an auspicious inauguration to Martin’s trilogy.
Norm Goldman is the Editor of the Book Reviewing and Author Interviewing site Bookpleasures.com. Bookpleasures.com comprises over 25 international reviewers that come from all walks of life and that review all genre.
Review by: Fran Lewis
Art takes on many different forms. A blank canvas can be a true artist’s playground to create designs, patterns, portraits and even landscapes. Art takes on many forms. Just look outside of your window and see the magnificent trees, gardens you have planted or the floral arrangement you created. Florists are artists too. They use color, patterns and designs to create their bouquets, flower baskets, bridal centerpiece arrangements as well as window treatments and simple floral arrangements. But, one Florist takes on a whole different view of what he thinks is art and he creates magnificent drawings of flowers which he carves straight into the skin of his victims. Sick, sadistic and yet he considers this art.
Harry Jenkins cannot seem to catch a simple break. We meet him at a funeral for a client. Harry is an estate attorney who works for a man named Richard Crawford. Distinguished, highly regarded and definitely a touch of a pervert. How did I come to this conclusion? Harry is asked to prepare certain documents for a client. Within the file are pictures that were drawn of the female anatomy by our distinguished attorney. Before Harry can execute the will and create the documents Richard Crawford falls over and dies right in front of him leaving him with all the problems and much more to handle. Harry works for Crane, Crawford and Jenkins. He is Jenkins. But, not a senior partner however, poor Harry’s troubles have just begun. Before his partner falls over and dies in his office he purports to give Harry a lesson in love. Richard Crawford was madly enamored with Marjorie Deighton and before dropping over he recalls and remembers their time together. You might say he was totally obsessed with her.
Harry seems to be around a lot of death these days as he is asked to meet this mysterious Marjorie at her home for the purpose of going over her will and consulting with him having missed their meeting earlier that day. But, traveling with his secretary in order to record the meeting what they find when they arrive is not exactly what they expected. Another victim or a natural death lying serenely on her bed. Did she die in her sleep, or is something else going on here?
But, let’s flashback for one moment before we find dear Marjorie gone. Harry receives a phone call from her asking him to meet with her at four that day. Wanting to once again change her will and provide a secret trust for one niece and concerned about the welfare of her 15-year-old nephew, Marjorie wants Harry to handle all of the paperwork involved. Then, Harry receives a mysterious phone call from a man named Chin in dire need of his services. Chin wants to work on some property acquisitions. Albert Chin was referred to Harry but what he has yet to find out is the real reason behind the call. As we meet Albert Chin the reader begins to shudder just hearing his voice and thinking past what he is really saying to Harry. Wanting certain transactions carried out within a twenty- four-hour period and hoping to acquire the property of one of his clients and a church, Harry might find himself with a serious conflict, but then we know Marjorie’s fate. How does this all link together? Before her death she met with Harry to discuss the various changes in her will. She also led him to believe that further ones would be made at a later date when she was certain her niece was not longer involved with Frank Sasso and that her funds and estate would never be his no matter what. Added into the story we learn more about Harry’s wife Laura and her true feelings about his old world clients, their money and how she really feels about him. Constantly putting him down and never seeing him as the honest lawyer he is, Laura decides to divert her interest elsewhere. But, Harry’s troubles are just beginning as he learns when he goes to the bank after the death of his partner. Learning that Richard secured a personal loan using company funds he seethed when told the amount of money owed the bank and that his accounts would be frozen if he does not pay them something. Even telling the manager, Mr. Mudhall, that the loan was illegal did not seem to work as Harry wrote a large check and hoped the rest would be settled before all of the retainer and money Chin gave him would be gone. This loan is suspect and so are the acquisitions of this Mr. Chin. Remember: when Harry went out to get his secretary to make coffee Mr. Chin made sure he took a good look at Marjorie’s documents and will. Why?
Men judge women by their outer appearance and some by what they do. Others judge them as being good enough for this world and some decide that enhancing their looks with their own creative art makes them feel special and enhances their ability as an artist. Matisse created art with just a few short lines and strokes. Wait until you learn what our Florist does next.
When Harry and his secretary find Marjorie looking peaceful yet dead, he begins to wonder if it really was natural causes. Speaking with her niece you get a sense of coldness and if you hear the voice of the Florist you can tell who is going to be next.
But, there are many other players such as the Arch Bishop who has monetary problems and lawsuits dealing with abused youngsters by several clergy. Dealing with Tony McKeown and his firm should prove lucrative if he follows his lead. Albert Chin being the link between Jenkins and McKeown too as he is quite resourceful and seems to have unlimited funds. Added to the incentive to work with him he presents Harry with some extra perks. But, what is unsettling to him and to the reader is his knowledge of Harry’s personal life. Secrets are unlocked as Katherine Rowe remembers her youth and the secret she his hiding for her brother. Gerry is a dentist and his son Donnie presents serious problems for him and her late aunt was concerned about him in more ways than one. Now that she is gone Gerry’s financial problems might be over but what about his concern for his son? Her final wishes and thoughts heard as the author relates her time with her niece Susannah and just what she wanted if things became too difficult for her and she was too ill to go on.
As the story unfolds and the pieces start to come together just who stands to profit from Marjorie’s death and just how deep with Harry go until he falls into the arms of a dangerous man named Chin? Marjorie is buried and her house up for appraisal and what the realtor and Harry find is not what you would expect. An accident lands him in the hospital and another corpse turns up as the Florist strikes again and another Petal Murder occurs. When will he strike again and how are all of these murders linked? When the police see the body in Marjorie’s house and realize a murder was committed they finally take some action and look into her death.
Greed, power, attention, success and much more are part of the inner layers of each character in this book. Just who will wind up the next victim of our artistic and creative killer? Who happens when a new will is found and Harry is no longer the executor? What will he do to change it? How does Natasha fit in and which family member becomes a victim of the florist? When will Susannah realize what Frank is really after? How much more abuse will she and several others
Creating the final petals on the victim’s face, shoulder and neck the author connects all of the intricate lines, curves and strokes to complete the killer’s plan. All of the petals as you can see are attached to the stem or base each petal on part of the plan so cleverly crafted and so diabolically mastered that the killer thinks he/she will never get caught. Look at the perfect petals and understand that each one holds its own secrets that the killer does not want learned by the reader. Money laundering, bank tampering, porn and much more are just the tip of the petals. But, when all of the pieces finally come together we hope the end result will look like this.
Author Mary Martin once again takes the reader inside the mind of a sick and demented killer who believes that compassion, love and trust are weaknesses. Find out what happens to the cast of players and who lives, dies and who comes out without their Conduct being Questioned.