Breach of Promise

Breach of Promise

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Are two heads really better than one? When it comes to writing fiction it would seem doubtful. Plot, style and character development need to be consistent, and the more authors involved in the writing, the less likely it is, logic indicates, that consistency will be achieved. In the case of Perri O'Shaughnessy's novels, the norm is not the rule. Perri O'Shaughnessy is the pen name for sisters Pamela and Mary O'Shaughnessy. One is a trial lawyer and the other is a former multimedia project writer and editor.

The O'Shaughnessys have written several novels. Among them are Obstruction of Justice and Motion to Suppress. Each stars solo practitioner Nina Reilly, who conducts a take-whatever-business-you-can-get practice in Lake Tahoe, Calif. The setting is heavily involved in each of the previous books, and this story is no different. The lake itself figures substantially in the beginning and the end.

Markov Enterprises is one of the largest employers in Lake Tahoe. It was formed by Lindy and Mike Markov, who tell the world they are husband and wife. Nina and her private investigator boyfriend, Paul, are invited to go on a Lake Tahoe cruise put on by Lindy and Mike for charity. Nina is convinced to attend by her secretary, who sees the cruise as a potential source of business.

After they arrive, Paul and Nina are greeted by Lindy, who informs them that she wants her husband to meet them. Shortly thereafter, Nina overhears a conversation between Mike Markov and a woman named Rachael Pembroke that makes clear Mike has been unfaithful to Lindy. Rachael gets into an argument about their relationship to the point that Lindy and others at the party are drawn out where Lindy hears Rachael's demand that Mike divorce Lindy and marry her.

Lindy does not believe Rachael and demands that she leave the boat. Mike tells Lindy that their marriage is over and Lindy pushes Rachael and Mike overboard. What follows is a tale unlike any other you have seen in a lawyer-mystery-suspense novel.

Mike and Lindy are not really married. Lindy hires Nina to represent her after Mike fires her from the company she helped him start. To add to Lindy's problems, Mike also files a lawsuit to evict her from the house they have occupied for a number of years together. Nina and Lindy decide to file a palimony suit. Nina knows that palimony lawsuits are not favored in California, which does not normally protect against breaches of promise that two people living together without being married would share equally in the fruits of the relationship.

Lindy insists that Nina help her and offers a much-needed $100,000 retainer, but Nina realizes that the check would be written on a company account. When she tells Lindy that the check will be no good, Lindy learns that there is only $20,000 available in a personal account. Nina recognizes that Lindy will need all she has to live on. Troubled by Lindy's predicament, Nina looks for a cause of action that would stand a chance of success and finds an old statute. The statute gives a person who receives property in exchange for a promise of marriage a right to sue to recover the property if the promise to marry is broken.

Faced with the inability to get paid and learning that Mike has hired the meanest, best litigator in Lake Tahoe, Jeffrey Riesner, Nina is torn about what to do. When Lindy offers Nina a 10 percent contingency fee, Nina calculates that if she wins and Lindy gets half of Markov's $250 million in assets, she will get paid $1 million. Inspired, Nina takes the case only to lose initially on all issues except the appointment of a receiver. She realizes that she will need help with the trial and convinces palimony expert and Los Angeles heavy-hitter Winston Reynolds to join her as Lindy's counsel.

What follows is bizarre, intriguing and riveting. You will live through the trial preparation with Nina, Winston and their jury selection expert. Then the trial is conducted witness by witness with growing suspense until the end, which, as you probably could guess, is not the end of the story.

In the end you find yourself with Nina on an island in Lake Tahoe battling for her life, any thought of a contingency fee well out of mind, replaced by concern for the future. The characters are engaging, the plot on the outer edge but within the bounds of possibility. The action is continuous and unrelenting. The book promises to capture your attention and not turn it loose until the final page is finished. Believe me, there is no breach of that promise.

Journal Date: 
Friday, October 1, 1999