The exciting fourth legal thriller from former federal prosecutor Martinez to feature Melanie Vargas (after 2007's Cover-up) starts with a bang: a car bomb detonated by a cellphone explodes outside the Manhattan federal courthouse and kills Lester Poe, a distinguished defense attorney who was opposing Melanie in her murder prosecution of rap legend Atari Briggs. Melanie, a workaholic single mom who was attracted to Poe, witnesses the horrific crime, which occurs moments after the defense attorney advised her that Briggs was willing to give the feds the goods on wanted terrorist Gamal Abdullah. This Pelican Brief-like opening, alas, isn't matched by the rest of the book, which takes a predictable course involving a transparently evil attorney who succeeds Poe in representing Briggs and a young female attorney with self-esteem issues who's tempted to compromise the Briggs prosecution. Martinez may yet hit the top rank of suspense novelists if she melds her engaging series sleuth with more sophisticated plot lines. (Mar.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Notoriousby Michele Martinez
About to take a controversial rap star to trial for a past crime, Melanie Vargas receives an important piece of information from his lawyer. In full confidence, on the steps of New York City's federal courthouse, he tells her that his client may have had ties to a wanted fugitive. Moments later, a powerful car bomb blows the man to pieces, with Melanie only steps… See more details below
About to take a controversial rap star to trial for a past crime, Melanie Vargas receives an important piece of information from his lawyer. In full confidence, on the steps of New York City's federal courthouse, he tells her that his client may have had ties to a wanted fugitive. Moments later, a powerful car bomb blows the man to pieces, with Melanie only steps away.
As shocking as the murder is, it has other repercussions for Melanie. Her relationship with the victim wasn't strictly professional. While recovering from her breakup with FBI agent Dan O'Reilly, she had become attracted to the charismatic lawyer. But after his death she realizes that she knew very little about him—including the fact that he was married.
Determined to find the killer, Melanie enters a dangerous world of subterfuge and double-crosses, going as far as the glittering lights of Vegas to discover the truth. But the more she digs, the more she finds troubling about her friend. Several people had the motive to end his life.
Meanwhile, the rapper's defense has been taken over by the slickest shark in the business, a man of questionable morals who may have had previous unlawful dealings with his client. But the outcome of the case isn't the only thing on the line. As the sole witness to the murder, Melanie is in danger of losing her own life. And it isn't long before she realizes that she can't trust anybody, not even those closest to her.
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The man Melanie Vargas was talking to would die violently in a matter of minutes. But in the here and now, he was so very alive as they debated the handling of a case that she couldn't have imagined it.
"You need to ask the judge to put off the trial," Lester Poe insisted. "The request has to come from the prosecution. If I ask, we might as well call a press conference right now and tell the world my client's ready to snitch."
They stood in the grand plaza outside the federal courthouse in New York City. It was an eighty-degree afternoon in March, and the unseasonable heat blazing down from the bright white sky added to Melanie's anxiety. She was a young prosecutor, respected in courthouse circles but unknown outside of them. Lester Poe was the most famous criminal lawyer in America and had been for thirty years. With his trademark shoulder-length white hair and craggy, handsome features, he was highly recognizable. Several people walking by had already turned to stare. Melanie didn't like talking about such a dangerous subject out in the open like this.
"Let's keep our voices down," she warned.
Lester was enough on edge himself to accede to her suggestion, taking papers from his briefcase with studied nonchalance, as if he was consulting with her about them. The mere fact that they were seen talking shouldn't arouse any suspicions. They were adversaries on a celebrated case, scheduled for trial in little more than a week's time. Nevertheless, it paid to be careful.
"You're right," Lester said in a low tone. "You may want Atari locked up, but other people want him dead."
AtariBriggs, Lester's client, was named for the video games his gangsta daddy had loved to play, and their magic had rubbed off on him. He'd worked every heroin spot in East New York and rained down murder and mayhem on his enemies, then retired at twenty and turned his street cred to gold in the recording studio. On the same day that Atari's sixth CD went triple platinum, DEA arrested him for a murder he'd ordered ten years earlier.
"What's your client got to tell me that's worth killing him over?" Melanie asked. "Does he plan to finger somebody else for the murder he's charged with?"
"If all I had for you was a lousy drug murder, honey, I wouldn't keep you from your tuna fish sandwich."
She smiled. "You take a pretty bleak view of my lunch situation."
"I know what the government pays you," he said, smiling back. "What I'm about to give you, you can take to the bank. My client can give up Gamal Abdullah."
"Call him what you will, but we're not talking about some lowlife in a suicide vest. Abdullah's a major player internationally."
"I know exactly who he is. That's why I find it hard to believe that a rap artist has the goods on him. This isn't a ploy to throw me off my trial prep, is it, Lester?"
He looked genuinely hurt. "Darling, would I scam you?"
"You're smart enough to try, anyway."
"Maybe with somebody else, but never with you."
Lester's eyes lingered on her face. They were stormy gray under dark brows, and he was famous for mesmerizing juries with them.
"Okay, I'll bite," she said, all business. "What does your client want to tell me?"
"About six months ago, Gamal Abdullah used Atari's yacht to meet with some of the biggest drug kingpins in the United States."
"Meet about what?"
"A major supply agreement. Afghan heroin, to be exact, to the tune of a hundred million bucks a week, with the proceeds going straight back to Taliban-associated warlords in Afghanistan."
"Your client witnessed this meeting?"
"Not only witnessed, he filmed it. His boat has a state-of-the-art surveillance system. I haven't seen the DVD yet, but from what I understand, it's enough to persuade any jury. You'll get Abdullah dead to rights, along with just about every other major player in domestic narcotics in the whole damn country."
"Where's this DVD now?"
"In a safe place. We can get it for you, but in order to avoid arousing suspicion, that may take time."
"And I'm supposed to ask for the delay in the meantime, with no proof?"
"You don't trust me enough to do that?"
"You, I trust, but your client? Uh-uh."
"Maybe a showing of good faith would help. How about if I give you a significant lead for free, no strings attached? You can check it out and see if I'm being truthful. If you're satisfied, ask for the delay by the end of the week."
"Here it is, then, straight from my client's mouth an hour ago. Gamal Abdullah moves in and out of Western Europe using various aliases. The current one is Sebastien Calais. As of a few days ago, he was in Spain, first in Madrid, then in a town in the south called Ronda, traveling under that name."
"Okay, got it. I'll have it checked out right away."
"And, Melanie, secrecy is key here."
"No, you don't; you can't possibly understand the full implications," he said, his voice urgent. "I don't want to alarm you, but some very dangerous people would go to great lengths to prevent this cooperation from happening. And beyond that, I don't trust the phone lines in my office. I think they're bugged. That may sound crazy to somebody your age, but I was bugged in the sixties, in the South, when I was doing civil rights work. I know the signs."
"Lester, are you serious? What are you doing about it?"
"I'm taking care of it. I have a company coming in to sweep. The bug may have to do with something separate and apart from the Briggs case, but in any event, the point is, you and I cannot discuss this over the phone."Notorious. Copyright © by Michele Martinez. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Michele Martinez, a graduate of Harvard University and Stanford Law School, was a federal prosecutor in New York City for eight years. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and two children.
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