When a woman's body turns up off a bridge near Big Sur, Nina Reilly sets out to solve her first murder case. In this prequel to Perri O'Shaughnessy's bestselling series, readers learn about the events that lead Nina to pursue her illustrious career as a criminal lawyer and also get a glimpse into her early life. Despite its flaws, the 12th Nina Reilly thriller is an interesting read, primarily because of Nina's appeal as a tough, smart heroine who has a personal interest in discovering the identity of the killer.
At the outset of the novel, Nina is a single mother in her late 20s living in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Working as a paralegal by day and attending law school at night, Nina already has her hands full when her ex-lover, Richard Filsen, shows up at her son's preschool and demands a paternity test. As the story progresses, she not only finds herself caught up in a fierce custody battle but also becomes embroiled in her mother's malpractice lawsuit against a corrupt acupuncturist.
To her dismay, Nina soon learns that Richard, a well-known attorney who is thoroughly unpleasant, is on the other side of that battle as well. Though she takes comfort in the fact that her firm's high-powered lawyer, Remy Sorensen, has agreed to represent her mother, events soon prove that even Sorensen's legal skills aren't enough to keep her mother safe. To make matters more complicated, Nina can't stop herself from falling for her boss, Jack McIntyre --- who just happens to be in love with the stunning Remy.
As a divorced mother, I found myself rooting for Nina as she struggled to balance work, school, motherhood --- and murder. There were, however, several problems with the plot that would lead me to believe that some readers might fare better with another book in the series. After the initial "kicker" scene, SHOW NO FEAR gets off to a slow start, and fans expecting the usual sort of legal thriller may be disappointed. At times it veers so far from its genre that it almost seems like a contemporary romance novel (not necessarily a bad thing, if that's what you're after). To be fair, the pace does pick up quite a bit during the book's second half. From that point on there were enough unexpected plot twists to keep me reading, and the identity of the murderer, though it did not come as a complete surprise, was clever and well concealed. The ending was satisfying, but I must admit its implausibility bothered me at times.
SHOW NO FEAR will likely be a welcome addition to the Nina Reilly series for many fans. Besides providing background information about Nina, O'Shaughnessy gives us the history of several characters who appear in later books, including her son Bob, her troubled brother Matt and skirt-chasing homicide detective Paul van Wagoner. For readers who want to learn more about O'Shaughnessy's intriguing protagonist --- or for those who simply like to commence at the beginning of a series --- this might be a good place to start.
--- Reviewed by Lori Lamothe