The Perfect Game by Leslie Dana Kirby (Poisoned Pen Press)
Liz Wakefield has been murdered, bludgeoned to death in her own home in what police initially believe was a botched robbery. Much of her expensive jewelry is missing. As the investigation continues, however, the police of Scottsddale, Arizona, begin to focus on two suspects close to home. One is Dr. Lauren Rose, Liz's younger sister, who is doing her medical residency at a local hospital, and the other is Jake Wakefield, Liz's husband and the star pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Lauren is the sole beneficiary of Liz's one million dollar life insurance policy, and some argue that she had developed a jealousy toward her rich sister. Jake has been an unfaithful husband, and although he claims not to have known it, Liz had seen a divorce lawyer just days before her murder.
Eventually there is an arrest and much of the remainder of the novel focuses on the lengthy courtroom proceeding as the skilled prosecutor struggles to build a case that would show the defendant guilty beyond reasonable doubt - and the high-powered defense attorneys pull out all of the stops in their attempts to create doubt in the minds of at least some of the jurors.
Then there is a verdict, and then there is another murder!
Except for the modern setting, The Perfect Game reminds me to a certain degree of the older Perry Mason novels of Erle Stanley Gardner where the focus of the books was on the intellectual duels between the lawyers. Gardner always gave his readers an insider's view of the workings of the law, and Leslie Dana Kirby skillfully does the same with her novel.
Surprisingly, Kirby is not a lawyer in "real" life, but a psychologist - and that field of knowledge helps to layer her characters to a point where they are both complex and entirely believable. The plotting is first rate, taking into account the steady building of a criminal case and punctuating it with the twists and hairpin-turns that keep the reader from drifting into complacency.
The Perfect Game is an exciting read, one that educates readers about the mechanics of police investigations and murder trials while telling a gripping story. I recommend it without reservation.
(That said, I feel both obliged and privileged to add that Leslie Dana Kirby is a friend of mine. She and I worked together at an Air Force mental health clinic during my Phoenix years, and after my stint in the desert was interrupted by a two-year tour on Okinawa, it was Leslie who drove across Phoenix one hot afternoon in July to pick me up at Sky Harbor Airport when I returned from the overseas assignment. Her annual Christmas letters are a highlight of the holiday season for me. This is Leslie's first novel, and I am sure that many others will follow.)