Review by Patty Crane

One of my duties as a librarian is what we call ‘professional reading’, keeping up with what is going on in the profession.  I have been know to grumble about professional reading, not the reading part just the amount.

Of course, it is not all about what form our future reading will take, library budgets, doing more with less, and so on.  Some of it is about books. So some evenings instead of curling up with a novel, I curl up with Booklist, Library Journal, or a 3 ring binder full of book reviews looking for new materials for the library.

In my search through the hundreds of reviews written each month, I sometimes (okay a lot of times) find something I know has to go on my reading list.  Such was the case with Marcia Clark’s Guilt by Degrees.

You probably know who Marcia Clark is if I pair her with Mark Fuhrman, Johnnie Cochran, and, of course, O.J. Simpson.  Clark worked for the Special Trails Unit in the Los Angeles District Attorney office and was the lead prosecutor in the Simpson trial.

Deciding to draw on her experience, Clark created Rachel Knight and the Guilt by series.  Guilt by Degrees is actually the second in the series.  The first, Guilt by Association, was praised in the aforementioned review so I had to read it in preparation for the May release of the new novel.

Like Clark, Rachel Knight is a prosecutor in the Special Trails Unit in the Los Angeles District Attorney office.  Rachel loves the Unit and the job was her goal from the moment she joined the DA’s staff.  They handle all the tough, complex, high-profile cases.

When we first meet Rachel she is celebrating a win on a tough murder case with two colleagues, fellow work-alcoholic Jake Pahlmeyer and good friend Toni LaCollier.  The celebration is brief and, for this trio, their final one.  Before the evening is over Jake is dead.

Still reeling from the shock, Rachel is assigned one of Jake’s cases, the rape of Susan Densmore.  The 15 year old was raped in her home and her influential father is a big supporter of the DA and anxious for an arrest to be made.  To help in the investigation, Rachel is able to talk LAPD Detective Bailey Keller, her best friend, into getting herself assigned to the case.

They also embark on another investigation as Rachel finds she cannot accept the course the investigation of Jake’s murder is taking.  Since he was found in a seedy motel with a dead 17 year old boy and a picture of the nude boy is in his pocket, the assumption is murder suicide.

Unable to believe Jake capable of murder, Rachel and Bailey decide to find out what really happened in the motel and why.  As they search for a rapist and a murderer they find everything is not what it seems and maybe they are investigating just one case, then again maybe not.

I thoroughly enjoyed the debut of the series and eagerly awaited book two.  This time around Rachel’s case is one she hijacks from a fellow prosecutor.  In the courtroom awaiting a preliminary hearing for a murder case, she watches the ill-prepared prosecutor fumble his case so badly it gets dismissed.

His indifference to the case because the victim was a homeless man enrages Rachel and she re-files the case herself.  With the lead detective in the case assigned to a desk because he too was enraged and decked the ill-prepared prosecutor, Rachel gets Bailey assigned to be her investigator.

The first thing Rachel and Bailey must do is identify the victim.  Following leads and working through the homeless network they find a name, Simon Bayer, Zack Bayer’s brother.  This is the same Zack whose grizzly murder by axe is detailed in the opening chapter of the book.

Are the two cases related?  Zack’s wife, Lilah, was tried and acquitted of his murder and then disappeared.  Simon never doubted her guilt and continued to try to find someone to bring her to justice.  Was the mystery woman Simon was reaching for as he died Lilah and if so where is she?  To solve this complex case Rachel and Bailey delve into past crimes, search for a mysterious woman, and find their own lives in peril.