A Suggestion of Death was published in 2000.
Read the reviews below:
Publisher’s Weekly Following the breakout success of Render Up the Body, Wesson returns with another searingly intelligent legal thriller starring Boulder attorney Cinda Hayes. These days, business is sparse for Cinda and her feisty law partner, Tory Meadows, until a whispery-voiced young woman calls Cinda on a radio call-in show. That woman turns out to be the estranged younger daughter of state senatorial candidate Harrison McKay. She accuses her father of abusing her sexually as a child, but she can’t quite remember any details. Though reluctant to wade through the legal quagmire of “repressed memory” theory, Cinda finds herself captivated by the lost, anorexic child-woman, who now goes by the name Mariah and lives among suspected neo-Nazis in rural Colorado. Somehow Cinda hasto jog Mariah’s memory before the statute of limitations runs out; and somehow she has to overcome her own repugnance for Mariah’s friends, especially the self-appointed “common law judge,” Pike Sayers, whose iconoclastic mystery she finds both fascinating and suspicious. Enigmatic and unnerving, Sayers is a remarkable character, but no more so than the fiercely intelligent but self-deprecating Cinda, who’s haunted by the conviction that she’s an impostor. . . When it comes to exploring dark, ambiguous terrain–such as paranoid politics and possible incest– Wesson writes with a rare blend of fearlessness, insight and wit. She’s now clearly on the short list of the best practitioners of the genre.
(by Otto Penzler, May 2000, owner of New York’s Mysterious Bookshop, editor, frequent reviewer and critic, and amazon.com crime consultant) Lawyers writing crime novels have been a rapidly growing sector of the mystery-writing population for well over a decade now, ever since Scott Turow hit the big time with his excellent Presumed Innocent in 1987. And then there was that fellow Grisham…. In fact, the legal mystery has been a genre niche for a century and a half: one of the first crime novels ever written, Bleak House by Charles Dickens, chronicled the courtroom battles of Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce in 1852-1853. Anna Katharine Green with The Leavenworth Case (1872) and Melville Davisson Post were the first great American practitioners of the legal thriller, soon followed by the Mr. Tutt stories of Arthur Train (an assistant New York district attorney in the 1920s) to the English legal-chambers-set novels of Michael Gilbert, Sarah Caudwell, John Mortimer, et al. The bandwagon has become more crowded on both sides of the Atlantic in recent years.
Fresh voices, however, are always welcome, and with her first series entry, Render Up the Body, Colorado law professor and former federal prosecutor Marianne Wesson achieved what most first-timers only dream of, solid reviews and word-of-mouth momentum that left her admirers waiting to see if she could deliver again. My verdict: she has. A Suggestion of Death takes Wesson’s heroine, Cinda Hayes, into a looking-glass world of maverick jurisprudence, where a secret common-law court has set itself up to deal out judgments harking back to a simpler era.
Against all her instincts, Cinda, a Boulder attorney with a knack for attracting the vulnerable and the victimized, finds herself drawn to the charismatic Pike Sayers, who presides over the unsanctioned (and illicit) common-law courtroom. Though he quotes Auden to her, she’s not convinced he’s any better than the right-wing vigilantes who appear to be his followers. Worse still, she can’t decide what role he’s assuming in the matter of Mariah McKay, the troubled young daughter of a right-wing politician who is hiding from her family and has sought Cinda’s advice on issues of past abuse by her father.
It’s a tricky personal and professional obstacle course for Cinda as she attempts to protect both Mariah and herself. A Suggestion of Death has the benefit of the author’s own familiarity with the territory. The straightforward legal questions are gripping, but so are the provocative issues raised by common-law adherents. Add the potential for deadly violence, and you’ve got a first-rate, surprise-streaked suspense novel.
When I was reading Boulder author Marianne Wesson’s first novel, “Render up the Body,” last year, I lent a copy to my mother, who was visiting for the summer.
Bad move. I didn’t get the book back until Mom had finished it. And when she did, she followed me around the house for a week saying, “Haven’t you finished the book yet? You won’t believe the ending.”
In her new follow-up novel, we see how much Wesson has grown as a writer. “A Suggestion of Death” is a gem among the plethora of modern legal thrillers: a gripping story that touches on hot topics, including repressed memories, citizen militias and the limits of the law.
It is a book with an intriguing plot, featuring the cast of Boulder characters we got to know so well in Wesson’s debut: Cinda Hayes, the sometimes-lonely, sometimes-bewildered defense attorney with a big heart, and her law partner, Tory Meadows. The two have set up shop in the Pearl Street law offices of African-American attorney Sam Holt. But Holt, Cinda’s lover, has moved to New York City, unwilling to deal with the scrutiny of being the designated representative of his race in Boulder.
The story gets going when a troubled young woman named Mariah McKay phones Cinda while she is on a call-in radio show trying to drum up business for her cash-strapped office. Mariah is the daughter of Harrison McKay, a CU professor who is running for the state Senate (his motto: “Whether or not you’re for him, he’s for you”). Mariah, suffering from eating disorders, is bothered by nascent memories involving her father, a string of lights and a pair of white legs. . .
There is a new, powerful character this time around in Pike Sayers, a sensitive, rugged, common-law judge who is central to resolving the mystery of the white legs. Cinda and Sayers come together and move apart as the story progresses, and part of the appeal of “A Suggestion of Death” is watching Cinda’s response to cowboy-boot-wearing Sayers.
Also back in “A Suggestion of Death” is Boulder, as much a character as Cinda and Tory. Locals will get a kick out of reading about “E-Town,” the Trident Cafe, the Downtown Mall, Penny Lane, Sugarloaf and Four Mile Canyon and jokes about the dearth of parking downtown. Says Sam, “Boulder can’t be explained. You have to be there.”
Wesson says the seeds of “A Suggestion of Death” were planted while she was working as a correspondent for National Public Radio and the networks at the Denver trial of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, convicted in the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995.
“This is a different kind of book than the first one,” she says. “I think I am a better writer than in the first book.”
Indeed she is. A few examples of her fluid, evocative writing:
“I looked up into the inky bowl of the sky, but no answers were written there…”; “Fluffy oversized flakes were still coming down like tiny kittens…”; and, “In the dim room his pale eyes flashed for a moment like the scales of a fish that catch the sun as it breaks the water.”
So this time around, I kept Wesson’s book out of my mother’s hands until I read it. Then I called up Mom, told her I was sending “A Suggestion of Death,” and said, “You won’t believe the ending.
Publishing News After dispensing advice on a local radio show, Colorado lawyer Cinda Hayes finds herself mixed up with an anorexic young woman who alleges that her father–an academic running for the State Senate– subjected her to a traumatic experience that remains only at the cusp of her memory. A gripping legal drama that keeps the reader guessing to the very end. The skilfully constructed story moves as smoothly and effortlessly as a Rolls Royce cruising on an uncrowded motorway. Highly recommended.
Library Journal In her second novel featuring Boulder lawyer Cinda Hayes (after Render Up the Body) law professor Wesson again spins an engrossing tale about the strengths and limits of the law. Frail Mariah McKay, estranged daughter of a prominent local political figure, comes to Cinda seeking redress for harm her father caused her. But Mariah’s memories are still vague, the statute of limitations is running out, and the issue of recovered memory requires scrupulous care. . . . Warnings to Cinda (a broken car window, a dismembered doll) go unheeded, and tragedy ensues before all of the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. With her appealing protagonist, brisk style, storytelling skill, and political correctness (Cinda has an African American lover and a lesbian law partner), Wesson should win new fans. A first-rate legal thriller.
Kirkus Review After a striking debut (Render up the Body, 1998), Wesson returns with a solid performance in which a mistreated young girl and a courageous lawyer battle for justice. Every lawyer knows that you never get emotionally involved with a client. And yet there’s something about the waiflike Mariah McKay, daughter of Harrison McKay, a respected figure (university professor, candidate for the state senate) in Boulder, Colorado that 40-something Cinda Hayes finds irresistible. The inner mom staking its claim, she thinks later, “an account that my life had not to that point presented.” Mariah thinks her father’s done something unspeakable to her, something so awful that the details have been repressed, though the damage resulting has blighted her life. . . . At length, Cinda and Mariah bring their suit, and the stage seems set for the obligatory courtroom showdown, only it isn’t. Resolution happens another way, more somber and more poignant. Wesson’s prose style is both careful and pleasing, her heroine so likable that you’ll forgive the walkabout.
Midwest Book Review A Suggestion of Death is an excellent legal thriller that will propel Marianne Wesson soaring to the top of the bestseller lists. The astute story line focuses on the legal questions dealing with repressed memories while still pumping out action. . . . With this tale and Render Up the Body, Ms. Wesson has quickly proven she is an impressive writer.
Like a master chef who takes dozens of diverse ingredients and subtly incorporates them into a fine dish, author Marianne Wesson takes the complicated legal profession and turns it into a palatable thriller.
“The responsibility of a writer is to give pleasure, but also to nourish the reader in some way,” says Wesson, a Boulder writer and law school professor at the University of Colorado.
One of her passions is to make the complexities of the legal system understandable to the average reader. She succeeds well enough that she’s already developed a strong following.
“It’s satisfying, but also a challenge” to make readers understand how the law works, she says. “I want to be accurate, but still keep it simple. Precise … but approachable.”
Readers wanted more. . . .In “Render Up the Body,” she introduced her protagonist, Cinda Hayes, a member of the Boulder District Attorney’s staff who becomes the director of the local rape crisis center, then is appointed to represent a death-row inmate accused of rape and murder. The shocking ending left readers wanting more of Cinda.
Wesson obliged in her new book, “A Suggestion of Death.” In it, Cinda Hayes – now in private practice -encounters for the first time the militia movement and an underground system known as common-law courts. She also deals with a client who is experiencing the controversial phenomenon of repressed memory.
The militia members in her new book were inspired by the Oklahoma City bombing trials, which Wesson attended when they were in Denver – but they’re all fictional.
Wesson’s stories are rife with conflict – lawyer against lawyer, employee against boss, woman against man. “I think situations where people find themselves in conflict are the most interesting,” she says.
“There are writers whose protagonists never experience a moment of self-doubt,” but she doesn’t think that’s realistic, or that readers can identify with such paragons.
Cinda Hayes, on the other hand, struggles with many elements of her life, not the least of which is reconciling her ethical nature and the job of being a lawyer.
Independent News-Auckland Marianne Wesson undoubtedly knows her stuff when it comes to legal matters. But it’s her semi-autobiographical narrator Lucinda Hayes’s self-deprecating sense of humor and likeably human qualities which make A Suggestion of Death a superior courtroom thriller.
San Diego Union-Tribune
By Robert Wade, and award-winning mystery author
Colorado attorney Cinda Hayes hopes to drum up a little business for her struggling law firm by appearing on a local radio talk show. What she gets is a lot of trouble when a caller poses a question she can’t answer: Is there a statute of limitations on cases involving repressed childhood memories? The troubled young woman believes that she was molested, and claims that she is just now beginning to relive her long-buried trauma. . . .
Cinda peels away layers of lies until she finally uncovers a sordid scandal – of which child abuse is only a small part. The outcome is bittersweet; while the truth brings redemption to some, it comes too late for others, and Cinda is left to ponder the nature of justice and her role in its administration.
Powered by such authors as John Grisham and Scott Turow, the legal thriller is an increasingly popular genre. Marianne Wesson is one of its newest practitioners. As an attorney, she knows the territory; as a writer, she knows how to spin a satisfying tale. Verdict: engrossing entertainment.
Toronto Globe & Mail Marianne Wesson’s first novel, Render Up the Body, introduced lawyer Cinda Hayes, a refreshing change from the smart-gal-with-legs-and-cleavage cliche. Cinda’s quirky personality and inner demons make her one of the best new series characters in years. She returns in the eerie story A Suggestion of Death. Cinda decides to do a radio “dial-a-lawyer” show. One caller, Mariah, asks about the statute of limitations on repressed memory of childhood sexual abuse. Mariah, alienated duaghter of a politician running for the Senate, is also part of a cult of survivalists, and Cinda senses a greater mystery. Wesson pulls it all together with wit, great style, and wonderful characters
Toronto Star The admirable success of Wesson’s second book featuring Cinda Hayes,a lawyer in Boulder, Colo., is the way both women, Wesson and Hayes, make the twisty minutiae of the law seem so accessible and intriguing, even for the legal nitwits that most of us readers are. Who would have expected to find drama in the interpretation of laws on recovered memory, or the standing of a private court run by a militia organization, or the status of a civil suit brought by a litigant who dies before the case reaches trial? But it’s all here to be marvelled at in Wesson’s smoothly presented mystery. Hayes’ client is a young woman who thinks she’s beginning to remember something terrible that her local big-shot father may have done to her in childhood. At the same time, a wacko Colorado militia group is sniffing around the young woman, who also happens to be seriously into anorexia. How’s Hayes supposed to save the client from this multiple chain of grief? By working within the law in procedures that, almost miraculously, turn out to be intellectually rousing.