L.A. Justice

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" Murder has been committed in Hancock Park, last bastion of old-money Los Angeles. A wealthy woman has been shot dead on the ground floor of a mansion. The only other adult in the house is her inebriated lover, the dissolute younger son of one of the city's top financiers, the eccentric Rudolph Bingham. Also in the house is the woman's son, Adam, a 10-year-old computer game genius, who had been asleep at the time of the killing. Now, Virgil Sykes, homicide detective and Assistant D.A. Nikki Hill's lover, is handed the call. As the case takes on
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Overview

" Murder has been committed in Hancock Park, last bastion of old-money Los Angeles. A wealthy woman has been shot dead on the ground floor of a mansion. The only other adult in the house is her inebriated lover, the dissolute younger son of one of the city's top financiers, the eccentric Rudolph Bingham. Also in the house is the woman's son, Adam, a 10-year-old computer game genius, who had been asleep at the time of the killing. Now, Virgil Sykes, homicide detective and Assistant D.A. Nikki Hill's lover, is handed the call. As the case takes on deeper dimension and the forces of big money call in legal experts, Nikki becomes involved in the complex prosecution of the younger Bingham...and explores her maternal side as she begins to bond with young Adam."
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Editorial Reviews

Dick Adler
This second book about black female prosecutor Nikki Hill is even better than its predecessor, relying less on author Christopher Darden's fame as an O.J. Simpson nemesis and more on his bleak insider's vision of the ways the Los Angeles criminal-justice system resembles a pack of wild dogs fighting over a bone. Combine this with co-author Dick Lochte's trademark ability to bring a gallery of characters to instant life—even such genre staples as the soft son of a hard, rich man—with a few deft touches and you have an exciting, topical legal thriller that also includes a couple of touching love stories.
Chicago Tribune
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
While he may have struggled very publicly in court, Darden--assistant prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson case turned crime author--has now delivered two high-octane legal thrillers in The Trials of Nikki Hill and this lively new sequel. L.A. prosecutor Nikki is working on the shooting death of artist Shelli Dietz. Shelli is, or was, the lover of wealthy wastrel Randy Bingham and the mother of Adam Noyes, a precocious 10-year-old computer whiz. Randy was passed out at the time of the murder, while young Adam was hiding upstairs. On the case for the LAPD is Virgil Sykes, Nikki's lover and reluctant partner to Dan McNeil, a career burnout and woman hater. Darden and his coauthor, veteran crime author Lochte, crosscut this slick if jumpy narrative with the taped ramblings of Patience, a dead hooker, who worked for upscale pimps Pickett and Ricky at the same time she was involved with a cop. This side plot proves distracting; moreover, characters tend to get stranded for long stretches. After Virgil is shot, he wanders into a medicated limbo, and McNeil, who grows more soiled by the page, also takes a powder. Accepting the solution to Shelli's death, as well as the identity of the Patience's murderer, requires some generosity on the part of the reader, but this novel is just the kind of frenzied page-turner many authors aspire to and few deliver. Darden's legal smarts and Lochte's sure prose touch work well in tandem. Agent, Mel Berger. (Jan.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
With Lochte (The Neon Smile, 1995, etc.) once more serving as copilot, O.J. prosecutor turned so-so novelist Darden (The Trials of Nikki Hill, 1999) does better in his second fictional effort. Inevitably, it's a courtroom drama again starring the feisty female African-American deputy D.A. for whom life is ever a bumpy path. This time out, though, Nikki Hill's major case seems a no-brainer. Sure, the defendant is rich and powerfully connected, but it would take a far less adept prosecutor than Hill to miss nailing him—the evidence is that compelling. When Shelli Dietz is discovered shot to death, Randy Bingham III, her lover, leaps way out in front as the prime suspect. He'd just quarreled with her, Dietz's ten-year-old son informs the police, and shortly thereafter the cops find tell-tale bloodstains (Shelli's) on trousers Randy has attempted to hide. Without working up a sweat, Nikki gets her conviction and a chance to thumb her nose at archrival deputy DA Dana Lowery, who both hates Nikki and secretly yearns to be her. Romantically, too, Nikki's in a rare good place, since handsome, sexy Detective Virgil Sykes teeters on the edge of commitment. At which point the authors shift into high gear, and it's goodbye easy living for Nikki. Suddenly, body bags fill up; misunderstandings between the lovers pile up; Randy, it appears, may have been framed; Virgil and Internal Affairs play cat and mouse; a killer as monstrous as he is unlikely enters, and it all culminates in a busy, busy denouement that will leave you either breathless at its pace—or grinning at its melodrama. The courtroom scenes are authoritative, of course, and as for the rest, no onecanaccuse Darden-Lochteof just going through the motions.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446523271
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 1/8/2001
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 6.27 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.36 (d)

Read an Excerpt

1

Z zzpt.

Zzzp; zzzpt.

The sound was close to his head. The crackle of crossed wires? Static electricity? Zzzpt. Really annoying. Not the sort of music a man with a hangover needed or craved.

Zzzpt.

If he opened his eyes he could see what was causing the irritating sound. But that would have required effort.

Lord, he felt awful. Two-hundred-dollar champagne wasn't supposed to leave you in this-wait a minute! He hadn't had that much to drink. Two or three glasses of merlot at the restaurant and maybe a sip or two of the Crystal at the house. He groaned, not only because of the pain that was like a spike driven into his forehead but also because he had no memory of how the evening had ended.

Not another blackout! On this night, of all nights.

Zzzpt.

How did he get home? He hadn't a clue.

He opened his eyes.

It was not the ceiling he usually saw upon waking. But it was a familiar ceiling nonetheless, high and shadowy in the dim glow of a lamp. He was at the old house, lying on his back on the carpet in the den. Fully dressed. Judging by the shadows, it was still night. He hadn't been out very long.

He raised his left arm and squinted at his Cartier Tank. So blurry. Two-what? Two-nineteen? He sat up to a spinning room. His head throbbed. All around him were Shelli's rather silly drawings, torn from her sketch-book. Where was she? Wrapped in the arms of Morpheus, he imagined.

Zzzpt.

The noise was coming from a long metal object on the floor beside him. He watched a moth flutter against its glowing grid. Zzzpt.

"'As alluring as Lucifer's promise,'" he said, quoting one of his own poems." 'As dangerous as his flames.'" He reached out to turn the gizmo off, then changed his mind when he saw other flying insects. "No bugs, milady," he said.

Sister Mildred would be so upset with him. Drinking to excess. Puposeless decadence.

There was smoke in the air and a strange malignant, coppery odor. Smoke wasn't good. It irritated his fragile lungs.

Staying seated on the carpet, he surveyed the room. He sobered a bit when he spied the bugs' point of entry: two broken panes in a dark green French door that led to the patio. There was something on the surface of the door. It looked like oatmeal. With a dash of dark red.

He rose, the room seeming to shift under him. He took a cautious step and saw a woman's body slumped against the bottom of the door. "Oh, no!" he wailed. "Shelli, no!" He staggered forward and dropped to his knees beside the body, hands folded as if in prayer. There was no question that Shelli was dead. No movement, no breath, no-how would Sister Mildred put it?-no spiritual essence. Her poor, horribly damaged head was tilted back. One eye was filled with a dollop of her blood; more had drained down her neck, forming a pool at the bodice of her dress. The other eye seemed to be idly checking the corner of the ceiling for spiderwebs. Oh, God, did I-could I?

He began to cry, whether for himself or Shelli he wasn't sure. He gave himself over to the sorrow, welcomed it. Then came that fearsome wheeze, warning him that his lungs were failing.

His hand automatically went to the atomizer in his coat pocket. One spray did the trick. It not only cleared the lungs, it cleared his head as well.

He saw the weapon resting several feet away under a table. He recognized the blue-metal gun, the walnut-colored handle, the name "Smith & Wesson" stamped on the side of its barrel. It had been a gift from his younger brother, Jeff-his gun-loving, animal-destroying younger brother.

Okay, my gun. But don't panic! The romantic does not panic. The romantic em-braces adversity. Analyze.

The gun. He'd loaned it to Shelli. She'd been worried about living in the big house. Worries not exactly groundless, he now realized. He had no idea where she'd kept it. Ergo, she was the one who had planned to use it. On him? Why? What could he have done to make her seek a weapon?

Perhaps he'd done nothing. Shelli had her dark moods. Perhaps she...

He forced himself to study the ghastly wound, tasting the bile rising from his stomach. Shelli might have pressed the gun to her own head. But there was no way the weapon would have wound up so far from her body.

Wouldn't he have remembered if he'd murdered his own fiancée? He looked at her left hand. A pale lily resting at her thigh. Unadorned.

Where was the ring? She'd accepted it, hadn't she? Hadn't they toasted their happiness? Or had that been a dream?

He touched the pocket of his coat, frowned and withdrew from it a gray felt case. Inside was the ring. The room was warm, but he felt a chill nonetheless. Had she refused the ring? Had he even offered it? Just for a second, the curtain lifted on his memory. He heard Shelli cry out "Monster!" Followed by the thunderous roar of the gun.

He shivered.

He was a monster. His beloved's lifeless flesh had not yet cooled, but he was beginning to worry about his own wretched hide. Such was his nature. A friend had once called him a rare combination of poet and pragmatist. He was that. Staring down at the weapon, he realized the time had come for pragmatism. Unlock and restore, Sister Mildred would say.

He took the ring from its box and, with mild effort, worked it onto the proper finger of the dead woman's left hand. Then he removed the silk handkerchief from his top jacket pocket and used it to pick up the gun. Was it his imagination, or did it vibrate as he wiped away the prints he'd no doubt left on its surface?

He placed it in the dead woman's extended right hand. It still wasn't quite what he wanted. He squatted beside the body and hooked the corpse's index finger into the trigger guard.

The body suddenly shifted and blood poured from its pooling place at the dead woman's neck.

"Aaaa!" he cried, staggering back, too late to avoid the splatters that hit his trouser leg and shoe.

The body slumped against the damaged French door. The head dropped forward, blood from the eye dripping down her cheek in vampire tears.

Panic hit him like a fever. He shook it off. Embrace the fear, he could hear Sister Mildred telling him. Use it.

He took a deep breath, let it out slowly. Have to get away, he ordered himself. Nothing can be proved if you can just get away.

He stumbled from the room and down the hall to the front door. The temperature in the house was unusually warm, but leaving it was like stepping into the first circle of Hades. It was hot and dry in Los Angeles, fire season, and the night air carried the choking musk of burning hillside. Bad for his asthma, but at least it replaced the coppery odor of poor Shelli's blood.

His Alfa-Romeo waited on the drive, its shiny black surface dulled by a powdering of ash from the fire in the hills. It was not the most reliable of machines. Still, it started right away. "My lucky night," he muttered ruefully.

Then he was away. Escaping down a deserted boulevard, placing as much distance as he could between himself and the horror.

The smoky air had filled his lungs with sand and cotton. He reached for the spray bottle in his coat pocket.

It wasn't there.

It wasn't in any of his pockets. He had to resort to the spare he kept in the Alfa's glove compartment.

Stay calm, he commanded himself, as his breathing returned to nor-mal. It doesn't matter if they find the atomizer in the room. You can always say you dropped it there earlier, before leaving for dinner.

The thought of dinner made him realize he'd forgotten something infinitely more important than the spray.

He sighed. There wasn't anything he could do about that, either.

Copyright (c) 2000 by Darden Family Inc.

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Table of Contents

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Entertaining legal thriller

    Warner, Jan 2001, $25.95, 448 pp. ISBN: 0446523275 Though the suspect comes from wealth, the case against Randy Bingham is as tight as a glove on a hand. Los Angeles police detectives Virgil Sykes and Dan McNeil immediately upon arriving at the crime scene in the Hancock Park section of town realize that someone sloppily tried to change a murder into a suicide, making the homicide even clearer. The culprit shot Shelli Dietz in Randy¿s home. Shelly¿s preadolescent son testifies that Randy killed his mother. <P>Deputy District Attorney Nikki Hill sees holes in the case that her lover Virgil and his partner provide to her, but continues with the prosecution against Randy. As she gathers more information, Nikki finds her own office hoping she will fail in this headline case. Also causing credibility problems for the prosecution is IA looking into Dan¿s recent killing of a prostitute. Still, the predominance of the evidence clearly points towards Randy even if Nikki begins having reasonable doubt. <P> The second Hill legal thriller is an exciting tale that keeps the octane flowing at its highest levels. The story line is fast-paced, filled with action, and never slows down for a nanosecond though readers will need to keep an open mind about the facts in the case. The relationship between Nikki and Virgil crumbles too easily due to misconceptions, misinformation, and miscommunication and adds little but unnecessary tsurus to the plot. Still Christopher Darden and Dick Lochte provide an enjoyable tale that sub-genre fans will appreciate because of its insider¿s look at the system at a supersonic pace. <P>Harriet Klausner

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