Cover image for L.A. justice
L.A. justice
Darden, Christopher A.
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Publication Information:
New York : Warner Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
434 pages ; 24 cm
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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Murder has been done. And in Hancock Park, last bastion of old-money Los Angeles. A wealthy woman in shot dead on the ground floor of a mansion...the only other adult in the house is her inebriated lover, the dissolute younger son of one of the city's top financiers, the eccentric Rudolph Bingham. Also in the house is the woman's son, Adam, a ten-year-old computer-game genius, who had been asleep at the time of the killing.

Virgil Sykes, homicide detective and Nikki Hill's lover, is handed the call. As the case takes on deeper dimension and the forces of big money call in legal experts like flying monkeys, Nikki becomes involved in the complex prosecution of the younger Bingham...and explores her maternal side as she begins to bond with young Adam.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Shelli Dietz is dead, and someone has tried to make it look like suicide. The police find Dietz's 10-year-old son hiding in a closet, and he tells them his mother's friend, Randy Bingham, was there earlier. Bingham is the black-sheep son of a wealthy and powerful L.A. financier. Investigating officers Virgil Sykes and his hard-drinking, cynical partner, Dan McNeil, know that they'll face an uphill conviction battle since wealth has a way of walking away from even the most heinous crimes. Sykes' lover, L.A. prosecuting attorney Nikki Hill, thinks the case will be a slam dunk, but when the Bingham money brings in paid expert testimony, the trial becomes a tangled, complex legal battle. Darden is best known as one-half of the prosecuting team in the O. J. Simpson trial, and his intimate knowledge of the criminal justice system infuses the plot with a gritty realism. His coauthor, Lochte, is an Edgar-nominated mystery veteran who keeps the dialogue terse and the plot moving at breakneck speed. The second Nikki Hill case (following The Trials of Nikki Hill [BKL F 15 99]) is an engrossing, entertaining legal thriller that will find a receptive readership among those who enjoy the works of Grisham, Rosenberg, and Martini. --Wes Lukowsky

Publisher's Weekly Review

While he may have struggled very publicly in court, DardenDassistant prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson case turned crime authorDhas now delivered two high-octane legal thrillers in The Trials of Nikki Hill and this lively new sequel. L.A. prosecutor Nikki is working on the shooting death of artist Shelli Dietz. Shelli is, or was, the lover of wealthy wastrel Randy Bingham and the mother of Adam Noyes, a precocious 10-year-old computer whiz. Randy was passed out at the time of the murder, while young Adam was hiding upstairs. On the case for the LAPD is Virgil Sykes, Nikki's lover and reluctant partner to Dan McNeil, a career burnout and woman hater. Darden and his coauthor, veteran crime author Lochte, crosscut this slick if jumpy narrative with the taped ramblings of Patience, a dead hooker, who worked for upscale pimps Pickett and Ricky at the same time she was involved with a cop. This side plot proves distracting; moreover, characters tend to get stranded for long stretches. After Virgil is shot, he wanders into a medicated limbo, and McNeil, who grows more soiled by the page, also takes a powder. Accepting the solution to Shelli's death, as well as the identity of the Patience's murderer, requires some generosity on the part of the reader, but this novel is just the kind of frenzied page-turner many authors aspire to and few deliver. Darden's legal smarts and Lochte's sure prose touch work well in tandem. Agent, Mel Berger. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One Z zzpt. Zzzp; zzzpt. The sound was close to his head. The crackle of crossed wires? Static electricity? Zzzpt. Really annoying. Not the sort of music a man with a hangover needed or craved. Zzzpt. If he opened his eyes he could see what was causing the irritating sound. But that would have required effort. Lord, he felt awful. Two-hundred-dollar champagne wasn't supposed to leave you in this-wait a minute! He hadn't had that much to drink. Two or three glasses of merlot at the restaurant and maybe a sip or two of the Crystal at the house. He groaned, not only because of the pain that was like a spike driven into his forehead but also because he had no memory of how the evening had ended. Not another blackout! On this night, of all nights. Zzzpt. How did he get home? He hadn't a clue. He opened his eyes. It was not the ceiling he usually saw upon waking. But it was a familiar ceiling nonetheless, high and shadowy in the dim glow of a lamp. He was at the old house, lying on his back on the carpet in the den. Fully dressed. Judging by the shadows, it was still night. He hadn't been out very long. He raised his left arm and squinted at his Cartier Tank. So blurry. Two- what? Two-nineteen? He sat up to a spinning room. His head throbbed. All around him were Shelli's rather silly drawings, torn from her sketch-book. Where was she? Wrapped in the arms of Morpheus, he imagined. Zzzpt. The noise was coming from a long metal object on the floor beside him. He watched a moth flutter against its glowing grid. Zzzpt. "'As alluring as Lucifer's promise,'" he said, quoting one of his own poems." 'As dangerous as his flames.'" He reached out to turn the gizmo off, then changed his mind when he saw other flying insects. "No bugs, milady," he said. Sister Mildred would be so upset with him. Drinking to excess. Puposeless decadence. There was smoke in the air and a strange malignant, coppery odor. Smoke wasn't good. It irritated his fragile lungs. Staying seated on the carpet, he surveyed the room. He sobered a bit when he spied the bugs' point of entry: two broken panes in a dark green French door that led to the patio. There was something on the surface of the door. It looked like oatmeal. With a dash of dark red. He rose, the room seeming to shift under him. He took a cautious step and saw a woman's body slumped against the bottom of the door. "Oh, no!" he wailed. "Shelli, no!" He staggered forward and dropped to his knees beside the body, hands folded as if in prayer. There was no question that Shelli was dead. No movement, no breath, no-how would Sister Mildred put it?-no spiritual essence. Her poor, horribly damaged head was tilted back. One eye was filled with a dollop of her blood; more had drained down her neck, forming a pool at the bodice of her dress. The other eye seemed to be idly checking the corner of the ceiling for spiderwebs. Oh, God, did I-could I? He began to cry, whether for himself or Shelli he wasn't sure. He gave himself over to the sorrow, welcomed it. Then came that fearsome wheeze, warning him that his lungs were failing. His hand automatically went to the atomizer in his coat pocket. One spray did the trick. It not only cleared the lungs, it cleared his head as well. He saw the weapon resting several feet away under a table. He recognized the blue-metal gun, the walnut-colored handle, the name "Smith & Wesson" stamped on the side of its barrel. It had been a gift from his younger brother, Jeff-his gun-loving, animal-destroying younger brother. Okay, my gun. But don't panic! The romantic does not panic. The romantic em- braces adversity. Analyze. The gun. He'd loaned it to Shelli. She'd been worried about living in the big house. Worries not exactly groundless, he now realized. He had no idea where she'd kept it. Ergo, she was the one who had planned to use it. On him? Why? What could he have done to make her seek a weapon? Perhaps he'd done nothing. Shelli had her dark moods. Perhaps she... He forced himself to study the ghastly wound, tasting the bile rising from his stomach. Shelli might have pressed the gun to her own head. But there was no way the weapon would have wound up so far from her body. Wouldn't he have remembered if he'd murdered his own fiancée? He looked at her left hand. A pale lily resting at her thigh. Unadorned. Where was the ring? She'd accepted it, hadn't she? Hadn't they toasted their happiness? Or had that been a dream? He touched the pocket of his coat, frowned and withdrew from it a gray felt case. Inside was the ring. The room was warm, but he felt a chill nonetheless. Had she refused the ring? Had he even offered it? Just for a second, the curtain lifted on his memory. He heard Shelli cry out "Monster!" Followed by the thunderous roar of the gun. He shivered. He was a monster. His beloved's lifeless flesh had not yet cooled, but he was beginning to worry about his own wretched hide. Such was his nature. A friend had once called him a rare combination of poet and pragmatist. He was that. Staring down at the weapon, he realized the time had come for pragmatism. Unlock and restore, Sister Mildred would say. He took the ring from its box and, with mild effort, worked it onto the proper finger of the dead woman's left hand. Then he removed the silk handkerchief from his top jacket pocket and used it to pick up the gun. Was it his imagination, or did it vibrate as he wiped away the prints he'd no doubt left on its surface? He placed it in the dead woman's extended right hand. It still wasn't quite what he wanted. He squatted beside the body and hooked the corpse's index finger into the trigger guard. The body suddenly shifted and blood poured from its pooling place at the dead woman's neck. "Aaaa!" he cried, staggering back, too late to avoid the splatters that hit his trouser leg and shoe. The body slumped against the damaged French door. The head dropped forward, blood from the eye dripping down her cheek in vampire tears. Panic hit him like a fever. He shook it off. Embrace the fear, he could hear Sister Mildred telling him. Use it. He took a deep breath, let it out slowly. Have to get away, he ordered himself. Nothing can be proved if you can just get away. He stumbled from the room and down the hall to the front door. The temperature in the house was unusually warm, but leaving it was like stepping into the first circle of Hades. It was hot and dry in Los Angeles, fire season, and the night air carried the choking musk of burning hillside. Bad for his asthma, but at least it replaced the coppery odor of poor Shelli's blood. His Alfa-Romeo waited on the drive, its shiny black surface dulled by a powdering of ash from the fire in the hills. It was not the most reliable of machines. Still, it started right away. "My lucky night," he muttered ruefully. Then he was away. Escaping down a deserted boulevard, placing as much distance as he could between himself and the horror. The smoky air had filled his lungs with sand and cotton. He reached for the spray bottle in his coat pocket. It wasn't there. It wasn't in any of his pockets. He had to resort to the spare he kept in the Alfa's glove compartment. Stay calm, he commanded himself, as his breathing returned to nor-mal. It doesn't matter if they find the atomizer in the room. You can always say you dropped it there earlier, before leaving for dinner. The thought of dinner made him realize he'd forgotten something infinitely more important than the spray. He sighed. There wasn't anything he could do about that, either. Copyright (c) 2000 Darden Family Inc.. All rights reserved.