Judgment at Santa Monica
August 16, 2021

Book Review

Judgment at Santa Monica

reviewed by Gail Byrd

According to the author’s note at the end of this book, “If you’ve read any E.J. Copperman or Jeff Cohen books, you are a member of my tribe…” Count me a dedicated member if that’s the case. This book is fun, it’s funny, and it contains one good mystery and one really enjoyable twist, or maybe two; but that would be telling.

This is the second book in the legal mystery series that features Sandy Moss, New Jersey lawyer who has transplanted herself to Los Angeles. While I didn’t read the first one, it’s not necessary as there are sufficient explanations of characters who appear in both books to answer any questions I might have and the mystery itself is contained entirely within the book. Based on my enjoyment of this book, and now being a recognized tribe member, I’m thinking I will need to pick up the first book in the series and give it a read in the near future.

Sandy narrates the book and opens by explaining her activities in the courtroom on behalf of a suburban housewife who has been accused of prostitution. The outcome of the case, absurd as it is, somehow goes against Sandy, which leaves her confused, frustrated, and planning her next strategy. While this is taking place, Sandy also describes her roommate, Angie, her best friend and another New Jersey transplant, who has moved in with Sandy and is currently unemployed.  That situation leaves open the opportunity for some snarky ”New Jersey” sarcasm that Sandy peppers throughout the entire book which adds to the humor and lightheartedness of the entire book.

There is a second recurring character in the book, Patrick, who is described as a Hollywood handsome leading man on television. In the previous book, Sandy apparently saved Patrick by proving not only did he not commit murder; but also she demonstrated by discovering who did. Now Patrick thinks Sandy can do no wrong and when fellow actor Cynthia is accused of murder, of course Patrick hires Sandy to resolve the situation.

There are several points revealed along the way, including: Why is Patrick paying Cynthia’s attorney fees?  What kind of job is Angie going to get? Is Patrick really in love with Sandy as he is now declaring? and Why does Emmy, Patrick’s former fiancé, keep tagging along everywhere they go? If that’s not enough, there are questions like who is sending people to attack Sandy? and What does Detective Lieutenant Trench know about it all and why won’t he tell Sandy? To answer any of these questions in this review would spoil the reader’s delight at having them unfold as they read and experience it firsthand. They are here to encourage readers to get the book and find out for themselves.

The characters are well drawn and presented, even at the same time they are what one might consider “Hollywood or LA Bigger than life”. It’s easy to get wrapped up in their activities and accept the action, even if a small portion of your brain may be saying, nah…that wouldn’t really happen, would it? Regardless, you are likely to decide it doesn’t matter, you just want to pick up the book and enjoy the story.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants their mystery a little on the lighthearted side. There are times when I found myself laughing out loud even though a part of me was trying to solve the case at the same time. It was fun to envision Sandy through her self-description of a “Jersey ‘Girl” who is just over the line in terms of cheeky, just brazen enough to pull off a few less than respectful comments in court, and overall to take on anybody and any situation with a belief that she can at least handle it and, at best, beat you at your own game. Is she arrogant? No, just New Jersey smart and confident.

My thanks to Canongate Severn House Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy for review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.

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