As St. Louis attorney Rachel Gold knows firsthand, the grueling hours and demands of Big Law take their toll on young lawyers. Some turn to drugs, some quit the profession, and occasionally one quits altogether. According to the medical examiner, Sari Bashir quit altogether on that Thursday night. That’s when she fell to her death from the eighth floor of the downtown garage where she parked her car.
The police ruled her death a suicide. Stanley Plotkin, however, rules it a homicide. Stanley is the weird mailroom clerk at Sari’s law firm, but he is also a true genius. Among his obsessions is the Facial Action Coding System (FACS), a massive compilation that correlates hundreds of facial muscle actions with specific emotions and mental states. For someone like Stanley, whose Asperger’s Syndrome renders him incapable of intuiting emotions from facial expressions, his mastery of FACS has caused him to conclude that Sari did not kill herself.
Rachel had been close with Sari, who worked for her during law school. She also knows Stanleyand his quirkiness and his geniusbecause their mothers are friends. Thus when Stanley announces his conclusion to Rachel as she drives him home from Sari’s memorial service, she can’t simply dismiss it. And when Sari’s father pleads with Rachel to review the police file on his daughter’s suicide, she reluctantly starts down a path that will lead into the heart of a dark criminal enterprise in which Sari was simply collateral damage.
About the Author
Michael A. Kahn is the award-winning author of several novels, praised by Publishers Weekly for their "intelligent, breezy dialogue and clever plotting." A graduate of Amherst College and Harvard Law School, Mr. Kahn began his literary career writing freelance feature articles for Chicago Magazine while teaching fifth grade in the Chicago public schools. The St. Louis attorney wrote his first novel on a dare from his wife, who got sick of hearing him announce, each time he finished a paperback thriller, "I could write a better book than this." "Then write one," she finally said, "or please shut up."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Rachel Gold, attorney at law, knows being a lawyer can be tough. When her friend Sari Bashir left work and instead of getting into her car leapt to her death from the eight floor of the parking deck, Rachel was devastated. They met in law school; Sari worked for Rachel as a law clerk, and had landed a job with a prestigious firm in St. Louis. Everyone at her memorial service rained accolades upon Sari. No one could believe they missed the cues she felt despondent, leading her down the path to take her own life. Perhaps she hid her sadness or became overcome with living the high stress life of a lawyer. On the way home from the service, Rachel was joined by Stanley Plotkin and Jerry Klunger, two of the mailroom workers for the law firm. Stanley and Rachel’s mother are friends. He is a brilliant man who wears the stigma of living with Asperger’s syndrome. Jerry helps smooth Stanley’s rough edges and makes sure he doesn’t have problems at work. This unlikely friendship has helped Stanley function in a society that often misunderstands him. During the ride home from the memorial service, Stanley states that Sari did not kill herself, but was, in fact, murdered. Rachel doesn’t really know what to make of his revelation. He is not one to make things up, he lives by the truth no matter how his words affect those around him. After he starts laying out the evidence, Rachel realizes he could be right. So begins her journey to find out who and why someone killed her friend. Most likely the killer is a member of the law firm. Rachel figures out a way to allow Stanley to observe each of them talking about Sari so he can use the facial expression recognition skills he has been taught to see who is lying or uncomfortable. This gives Rachel a high profile list of suspects. Rachel soon uncovers a web of deceit that is bigger than she could have imagined. If she keeps pushing the killer, it might backfire, making her the second woman to die for uncovering the secret. These characters are a hoot. All of them have great quirks, just like your co-workers or family members. The layers and depth makes them relatable, therefore likeable. Add them to the solid mystery, and you have a great read. Face Value has the perfect mix of humor, plot twists and smart, snappy dialog to make this a page turner with a satisfying end. I can’t believe I have never read any of Kahn’s Rachel Gold’s mysteries. This is the ninth in the series, but worked well as a stand-alone novel. I plan to catch up on the series so I can get to know these crazy lovable characters better while enjoying Kahn’s writing along the way. Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.
When this mystery starts out, it starts with a bang. At the beginning of this author’s ninth legal mystery, featuring Attorney Rachel Gold, a security guard comes upon the body of a woman in an alley adjacent to a parking garage. The unfortunate victim, Sari Bashir, is a young lawyer at a St. Louis law firm, Warner & Olson. The death is quickly deemed a suicide. The reason? Because the job of a young lawyer in a large firm is full of late hours and very hard work that can drive a new lawyer into many forms of depression and sometimes, well, sometimes they just quit. This poor girl’s death is put into the suicide file and put aside. Apparently the police on the case did not figure on Stanley Plotkin, who is an employee in the mail room of Warner & Olsen and also a man who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. Stanley is adamant that this is a murder case so he and his friend Jerry Klunger meet up with Attorney Rachel Gold at the memorial services for Sari Bashir and prevail on her to investigate the young attorney’s death. Stanley is a bit of a savant and people don’t pay a lot of attention to his ideas, but he knows what he’s talking about. He is into a system called the Facial Action Coding System that authorities have used to recognize emotions from facial expressions. Stanley is positive that Sari was very upset before her death, but definitely not suicidal or depressed about anything. Rachel agrees to investigate the death and gets a team together to help her. As Rachel and company look into Stanley’s ideas, she gives Stanley a free hand in helping with the case, as he is able to read the various emotional expressions on the faces of the people involved. Stanley has used his special skills, as an observer, to convince Rachel that this was definitely a murder and not suicide. Rachel and Stanley, along with Jerry, decide to record a memorial tape of Sari’s colleagues telling little stories and remembrances of Sari. Rachel gives the tapes to Stanley so he can study the expressions on the suspects’ faces. This part of the book was a bit draggy and I suspect a judge would never allow this in a real courtroom. However, in the story, the three friends along with Detective Tomaso of the St. Louis Police Department, are able to get somewhere with the video tape and prove that Sari’s death was not an accident. Now to prove it... Face Value was an enjoyable mystery with plenty of twists and turns. The characterizations are well written and, good news for the future, the author is on his way to a tenth book in the series. Quill says: Face Value is a good read with many interesting characters and a writer who knows the law and how law firms are run.