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On the heels of Aime Austin’s (Fox) In Plain Sight (2015) with one of my favorite female lawyers (sleuth), and a quick rewind of Casey Cort’s early life in a recent novella, Common Pleas Lawyer (2016), she finds herself front and center in yet another high-profile controversial racial battle, in her latest installment, CONFLICT OF INTEREST (Casey Cort #4) which could be ripped from today’s real-world news headlines.
There is a lot going on here!
"Casey is in Cleveland which has seen its share of economic collapse, political corruption, and urban renewal. In many ways, the city is at a crossroads. In Conflict of Interest,Casey confronts one of this country's most controversial issues, police shootings."
Having read all the books in the Casey Cort series they are full of adventure, action-packed legal scenes, cop procedures, suspense, mystery, tons of humor, creative plotlines, and very real characters.
Austin's (Fox) knowledge of the criminal justice system and the courtroom is apparent throughout her writing, as is her understanding of how the media influences public opinion of high-profile trials, and the actions of those involved.
Cort, the protagonist of Austin’s (Fox) rambunctious fourth legal thriller is in the "middle of controversy" which always has a way of finding her. She never had a desire to be in the public eye, yet she finds herself caught in the middle of both sides of the law, in her career as well as her personal life. She had assumed she would eventually get married, have kids and maybe work part-time. None of this was what she had planned for her life.
In the previous book, Casey was involved in a case defending a sex-trafficking ring leader, Jarrod Carter (Sledge Hammer) and became involved helping some innocent young girls. Afterward, she had her fill of criminal law which was a contributing factor to the demise of her love relationship with sexy U.S. Attorney Miles Siegel. (love him). He questioned her morals.
After an uplifting year of pro bono adoption work under her belt, she was hoping to start a practice free of the emotional turmoil and problems of criminal defense and divorce.Anything, but simple!
Presently, she is trying to make it on her own with her faithful assistant, her friend Lulu, and of course her adorable gay neighbor friends, Greg and Jason. Miles (her ex-boyfriend) is back once again for some rekindled love action (yeah, if she does not screw it up again). Appears she "needs" his expertise in more than one way.
Set in Cleveland, Ohio, December 28, 2005. We move intoConflict of Interest, where we meet some new characters told from different POVs.
Marc Baldwin, a white cop, married to Jen, with two children, on the beat for twenty years, gets a tip about suspected drug activity near a restaurant alley in the Flats area. He is a little cocky. His partner in the squad car. He checks out the location and sees a suspicious black man approaching in the alley with a sweatshirt and hood up, and he does not stop. It looks like he is coming toward him, reaching for a weapon and Marc, the cop shoots him.
Troy Duncan, the victim; a black young chef with a promising future, a fiancé, and two children. He works at a restaurant Spencer’s for the owner, Spencer Milburn. Troy is really the one who is the foundation of the restaurant and keeps it running, and the doors open. From cooking, prepping, menu planning, food ordering, to stretching their budget and innovative marketing ideas. He has talent. He had worked hard at the upscale bistro, even though his boss does not seem to be doing his part.
The New Year holidays were approaching and his boss tells him he can leave as they are closing early due to lack of business. However, Troy being the efficient one stays to clean up, planning menus and cleans his knives. It is winter and cold outside. He leaves out the back door to head home to his family to catch the bus. When he is shot by a cop in the alley.
The Flats, area where the restaurant is located:
"The White folks would think they were getting something exotic. Black folks would feel at home. Seemed like the perfect compromise for this area smack dab in the middle of Cleveland’s so-called revitalization. Light some bridges, build a light rail and bam, you had gentrification."
Troy lives with Lynell (last eight years), and they have two children: Ellison and Zora. He is still legally married to his childhood friend, Campbell (story here) and they have never got a divorce. He is close to his parents and loving supportive family.
Troy winds up in the hospital. Everyone thinks he is a drug dealer ignoring a cop’s orders, when he was totally innocent- without a weapon. Marc gets put on leave during the investigation. He needs an attorney since the union is representing his partner. Was the shooting necessary to defend his life? Was using his weapon a good idea, in light of the perceived threat? Was what he did, reasonable?
However, at the hospital, Troy is treated like a common criminal. He is black. No one is taking care of him properly and dismissing him and his health. He is taken into custody- meaning jail or prison. His family is devastated. He is seriously injured and will be in a wheelchair the rest of his life. Who will take care of his family?
Told From different POV Augustus, Marc, Troy, and Casey.
Augustus (Gus) Duncan, is the older father of Troy and wife Myrtle. They are not even allowed to see him. Why are they treating Troy like a criminal, when he is the one who was shot by a cop? Arrest, Charges, Jail. Troy needs a lawyer. He is the victim. An unarmed black man. Panic set in. Both he and Myrtle had escaped the South, but they had not escaped racial injustice.
A high profile case, Vernon Dinwiddie takes Duncan's case. It is now the first of the year, January 2006. The media, riots, and a divided city. Marc hires Casey Cort. Troy is paralyzed. Due to a conflict of interest, the union was taking care of Darlene Webb, his partner and cannot take him on. (a conflict of interest is an ongoing theme throughout the thriller).
Casey does not want to get back into criminal law. She takes the case. A civil lawsuit, but if he has possible criminal actions, then he can get another attorney. High profile Reverend Emery Wilkinson is leading a protest, of the way the city is handling the Troy Duncan shooting. Now she finds herself on the wrong side - she is not popular.
On a personal note, Lulu wants Casey to start dating, but she does not have the time nor the effort to go through the emotions. (funny stories here) on the dating scene.
Things turn worse for Troy. The charges change. Marc is not upfront about his past. Casey is blindsided. There are circumstances. The hospital, jail, and the staff are not attentive to Troy’s needs. A death. A broken system. A black man shot at the hands of a white police officer. Housed in a jail infirmary that had no provision for caring for him. Instead of getting the medication he needed he was denied care until he became critical until it was too late. Who is to blame? What about Marc’s past?
A town of black and white. Reverend Wilkinson and Mayor Gates would be looking for a scapegoat. Murder, Manslaughter, Assault with a deadly weapon. Three felonies. The badge cannot protect. Times have changed. A political grandstand. Gus and his family want revenge or at least justice.
In the midst, of the drama, Casey turns to her ex-boyfriend Miles for help with the case. By his calculations, he was on the right side of the law; she was on the wrong side. He had not had room for any wrong in his life. Here she is in common pleas; he in the US Attorney’s office. The moral compass. Miles was also black, was a cop before he was a prosecutor. However, even though they butt heads, the chemistry is still there. (Sizzle)! Miles may want to try again; however, is Casey up for the effort?
Casey uses her creative sleuthing and her legal expertise to gather critical information. When things are not always black and white. Will the investigation bring other items to the surface? Also, a city of the verge of a riot and her future career. Will the town find peace and will justice be served?
A non-stop ride, marked by legal and moral gray areas, a great suspense novel with an extra dose of humor and a lot of clever twists. One of my favorite legal series! Loving the new branding to differentiate Fox’s writing of women’s fictions and her legal thrillers now Aime Austin (pen name). Whether it is Aime or Sylvie, they both know how to shake up a courtroom with enough real-life expertise to keep legal fans coming back for more, Casey Cort.
The real magic of Austin’s (Fox) writing is her dynamic, richly textured characters which come alive on the page, and the visceral, often gritty settings they frequent, with modern real life topics, mixed with the perfect personal dynamics and lots of wit.
Always an adventure, Casey is witty and smart, (often, poor judgment), good instincts. She reminds me of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum (Stephanie/Lula/Ranger/Joe Morelli), similar to Casey/Miles/Tom/Lulu. Does Casey or Stephanie really want, a relationship, or just like the thought of one?
Gus was a great addition and loved his wife Myrtle; from a different generational viewpoint -a nice touch. I am a huge fan of Miles, so hope they can stay together and give it a shot.
On a serious note, fans of Jodi Picoult’s, Great Small Things will enjoy the racial conflict with the highly charged topics, different points of view, and lawyer (s) caught in the middle.
A side note: As we left off with In Plain Sight (a cliffhanger) was expecting to pick up with these characters. Hopefully, Austin will pick up with a continuation, (HINT) in future books. There were too many characters left with unresolved issues and unanswered questions. I am positive they will resurface again in the future.
After all, if Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum is coming up on her 23rd Turbo Twenty-Three installment next month, then surely Casey Cort has at least 20+ more books to come. (I truly am invested in these characters). Can you tell?
Looking forward to Casey Cort #5 THE RIGHT TO LIFE, Coming March 1, 2017.