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Notorious    by Michele Martinez order for
by Michele Martinez
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William Morrow, 2008 (2008)
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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Just after notorious and wildly popular rap star Atari Briggs' defense lawyer, Lester Poe - 'the most famous criminal lawyer in America' and a glamorous older man - confides that his client is 'ready to snitch' to prosecutor Melanie Vargas (deputy chief of the Major Crimes Unit) on the steps of New York City's federal courthouse, he's killed in a bomb blast in front of her eyes - and she sees the killer trigger the explosion.

Given that Poe mentioned his client was ready to give up infamous terrorist Gamal Abdullah, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force immediately sends in its heavy hitters. The NYPD are also involved as are DEA agents in charge of the Atari Briggs drug murder case. On the bench for the case - and once more complicating her life - is Melanie's poisonous ex-boss, Judge Bernadette DeFelice. Briggs is now represented by Poe's partner Evan Diamond, a sleazy and dangerous lawyer who claims to know nothing of his client's offer to make a deal.

Further complicating the prosecutor's life is FBI agent Dan O'Reilly, who had broken her heart when he moved back into his ex-wife's orbit during their joint investigation in Cover-Up. Now Dan is pushing for them to get back together and though Melanie's heart says yes, her head says a very definite no.

A young, pretty, and vulnerable new hire, Jennifer Lamont, joins the Briggs' prosecution team. Unbeknownst to Melanie and the others, Diamond carefully entices her into his orbit. Further victims of violence include a prosecution witness and Lester Poe's ex-wife Brenda Gould. While trying to line up another - and very elusive - witness for the prosecution, Melanie unofficially digs into Brenda Gould's death, uncovering old secrets and risking both her safety and her job. She finds clues in musical lyrics, and barely survives encounters with a hit man.

Eventually, several mysteries are resolved and a celebrity criminal gets what he deserves, though not through the justice system. Melanie Vargas is, as always, an engaging lead and her latest Notorious adventure has all the courtroom drama, chills, thrills, romance, and twisty surprises that fans have come to expect from an absorbing series.

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