Rory Calburton is an entertainment lawyer in a successful L.A. firm. Called to a meeting with Joe Stanton, the in-house counsel at their biggest client studio, he finds him dead. He is a good lawyer, so does everything right, not going in the room, not touching a thing, and calling the cops immediately. In a standard mystery, he would be the prime suspect, but this is not standard and he is never considered a suspect at all.

Which is a good thing, Rory has his hands full with a copyright case that is falling apart (in no small part thanks to Stanton’s death) and with his new associate Sarah Gold whose Impulse Control Disorder is plucking his last nerve. To add to his difficulties, his boss Hal, the founding partner of his law firm, is arrested for the murder.

And so we have by-the-book Rory and impulsive Sarah working the copyright case which Sarah keeps trying to link to the murder because she would much rather investigate the exciting case. The key elements of the mystery are in place and it’s just up to our heroes to save the day and their boss.

I have said before that the advice to “write what you know” is taken too literally. It is beyond apparent that Charles Rosenberg is a punctilious lawyer with deep and abiding understanding of the law and legal ethics. If he knew it less well, he would write a better mystery. He is fascinated by the process and writes about it with too much detail. He is fascinated by the ethics and ends up making Rory sound like a bit of a legalistic prig. Rory is constantly on Sarah’s case for her impulsive actions, but in many cases he is just wrong. She didn’t break the law, she just took initiative without his permission and thought of things he didn’t.

When people advise others to write what they know, they mean write about the emotions they know. If they know love or hatred, they can write about it, if they know fear, they can write about it. No one has met an alien, yet there are many great books about it. We don’t have to know the facts. We have to know the feelings.

I think we are supposed to get the idea that there is some mutual attraction between Rory and Sarah, but if there is, I can’t see why. In fact, if his hostility is based on his physical attraction, then it’s as unethical as if he were harassing her. Something he never considers despite his constant objurgations on ethics.

2pawsAs far as the mystery. Well, what can I say? There’s a dearth of suspects and our principals do not interview them as suspects except at the end. Rory is actively not trying to solve the mystery, because that’s not his job, in his opinion. Even when he is tasked to represent Hal, he does not see it as his job to figure out who did it. He’s a bit single-minded, to the point that he seems unrealistic. Sarah on the other hand is too beautiful, too smart, too skilled, too perfect to be real. This is a big failing.

The plot is interesting enough to keep my attention and reel me in to the conclusion, but there were moments when I considered the opportunity cost of finishing the book – the time I could spend reading something more complex and interesting. I think the author was so absorbed in getting the law right, in showing it the proper respect, that he forgot to respect his characters. I also think that if the characters get their act together and Rory gets the stick out of his butt, there could be very enjoyable sequels.

Write to Die will be published on July 26th. I was given an advance e-galley to review by the publisher through NetGalley.

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