Cover image for Unnatural causes
Unnatural causes
Bettle, Janet.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Minotaur, 2000.

Physical Description:
312 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"Thomas Dunne Books."
Format :


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Geri Lander is a successful lawyer always ready to passionately defend the underdog. But when Joanna Pascoe comes to her for help in uncovering the truth behind her husband's mysterious death, even Geri believes she does not have much of a case. What has happened to Joanna's husband seems like a tragedy-a senseless, heart-wrenching tragedy.

But, as Geri digs a little deeper, she comes up with frightening questions, and no answers: Why should a perfectly healthy man like Dr. Pascoe die after a simple case of food poisoning, and why such a gruesome death? The further Geri delves, the more suspicious the circumstances become, and before long she discovers that Thomas Pascoe has died from something far worse than food poisoning. Dr. Pascoe is the victim of a deadly super-bug-a bacterium resulting from over-use of antibiotics in farm animals. Geri begins to investigate, only to be thwarted at every attempt to discover the truth. The authorities are curiously unwilling to help, more people are dying, and suddenly Geri finds herself in the middle of a dangerous conspiracy.

In this terrific first novel, Janet Bettle introduces a feisty heroine and brings a fresh and contemporary voice to the world of legal thrillers.

Author Notes

Janet Bettle is a practising barrister, working in East Anglia. She lives in Colchester with her husband and two children. This is her first work of fiction.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

First-novelist Bettle introduces us to Geri Lander, a thirtysomething British barrister with a track record of winning. Now a partner in the reformist firm where her late husband had once been a partner, Lander digs into her work with a vengeance. But nothing prepares her for the case that lands in her lap when she agrees to investigate the mysterious death of Joanna Pascoe's husband, who dropped dead from a suspicious case of food poisoning. The trail leads Lander to a lethal strain of bacteria, dubbed a "super-bug," infecting factory-farmed chickens. The real shock comes when an informer reveals the source behind the strain. With sharp dialogue and a good sense of intrigue, Bettle spins a convincing courtroom drama with a likable heroine. This could make a good series. --Mary Frances Wilkens

Publisher's Weekly Review

A woman barrister's fight to keep her law firm alive while investigating corruption in the poultry industry marks the auspicious debut of Bettle, herself an English barrister. In the wake of husband Simon's depression and suicide, Geri Lander, senior partner in the law firm founded by Simon, must juggle running the firm, trying cases and caring for her 11-year-old son, Rory. Dealing with her condescending male partners and the still-chauvinistic legal community while trying to be true to Simon's ideals and establishing a new life are more than enough for anyone to handle. But added to all this is a claim brought by Joanna Pascoe, a widow who seeks justice and the real cause of the death of her husband (Thomas Pascoe, the late doctor, made a video in which he said that he believed his illness was caused by eating chicken infected with some type of deadly bacterium.) Geri takes the case on contingency, upsetting her partners and causing further strain to the already struggling firm, whose finances teeter precariously after a partner disappears with substantial funds. On the home front, Rory is fighting his own battles as he tries to come to terms with his father's death, and Geri gratefully accepts Joanna's offer to stay with Rory after school in exchange for legal assistance. Bettle makes her case expertly for Geri as an advocate and friend for all seasons while presenting an unsettling picture of women at the mercy of today's court system. Future appearances from this skillful author will be welcome. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Practicing barrister Bettle's impressive debut is the first in a series about Geri Lander, a London-based solicitor and widow. Investigating the case of a woman whose husband died after eating chicken one evening, Geri learns that the chicken was infected with a deadly "super-bug" and uncovers a shocking conspiracy. Geri has her hands full as she also deals with the devastating betrayal of a legal partner, the problems of her sensitive son, and her developing and conflicting romantic feelings toward her star witness. Bettle's story moves at a brisk clip and is hard to put down, much like a Sandra Brown or Robin Cook thriller. Readers will gain insight into some of Britain's legal procedures but may struggle a bit with the scientific passages and the frequent use of British phrases. There is also some profanity. Previously published in the UK, this is highly recommended for all public libraries.DSamantha J. Gust, Niagara Univ. Lib., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.