Nina Reilly, an attorney in Tahoe, agrees to represent her son's best friend, Nikki Zack (an anti-social, angry, young, poverty-stricken girl) who witnesses saw leaving the scene of the vicious murder of the wealthy uncle who cheated her mother. Nina Reilly is an attorney who opened her own practice in Tahoe after being fired from a high powered San Francisco law firm and found that the small town is anything but sleepy as she takes on and wins case after impossible case.
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This Nina Reilly novel begins with a description of young Nicole "Nikki" Zack burglarizing her wealthy Uncle Bill's home in an attempt to rob him to compensate for what she believes he stole from her mother, Daria. Bill had quietly bought Daria's share of the land her grandfather had left her when Daria was desperate for money. Nikki is convinced the land is far more valuable than the paltry sum he gave Daria. Hiding in the bushes, Nikki observes her uncle hiding something in his pool. She retrieves the bag and steals away. Later that night, the police arrest her for the vicious throat slashing of her uncle with an antique Samurai sword.
Nina is recovering from the unexpected death of her new husband when her young son, Bob, asks her to represent Nikki. Nina meets with Daria and her sister Beth, Bill's widow. Beth's and Bill's son was killed in a charter plane crash the same night that Bill was murdered. Beth, reeling from the loss of her husband and son, will not believe that Nikki is guilty and offers to pay all costs. All the evidence points to a guilty verdict so Nina calls in her long time friend and sometimes lover, Paul Van Wagoner to help her investigate. Paul is reluctant because he still loves Nina but eventually agrees and begins by investigating the plane crash believing that it is too much of a coincidence.
Although the FFA determines the crash was due to pilot error, Paul discovers that hollow Styrofoam balls had been placed in the fuel tank. Paul had noticed similar Styrofoam balls at the hanger when he interviewed the plane's mechanic. Attempting to question the mechanic again Paul finds that he too has been murdered. He also discovers that Beth was supposed to be on the flight not her son, who took her place at the last minute without his father's knowledge. This leads to Paul's discovery that Beth had decided to divorce Bill. The police reveal that along with the blood of the victim on the sword they also found DNA that matches Nikki's.
While under house arrest Nikki and Bob are attacked at her home. This leads to Nina's discovery that what Nikki took from her uncle was a bag of black fire opals. With the help of a geologist from the university, Nina and Paul comb Nikki's grandfather's property and discover that a neighboring miner had found a rich vein of opals on it. He was the one who had attacked Nikki in an attempt to retrieve the opals. All of Nina's legal wrangling fails and it looks like Nikki will be convicted.
Convinced that the property must be the key to the case, Nina and Paul find the mine and begin a comprehensive search. They find Beth deep in the mine talking to a mummified body. It turns out that the mummy is actually the body of Nikki's father who had deserted his family when Nikki was two years old. Beth has had a break with reality and explains that she had an affair with him but he wouldn't leave his family so she murdered him with the same sword that was used to kill Bill. She explains that Bill put his body in the mine so Beth wouldn't be charged with murder. When the neighbor found the vein of opals, Bill was worried the body would be discovered so he bought Daria's share to protect Beth. Beth admits that she also killed Bill because she realized he had tried to kill her by crashing the plane and ended up killing their only son. Paul explains that Bill had injected the Sytrofoam balls with water. The Styrofoam dissolved in the gas tank of the plane introducing water to the gas causing the engine to stall. Beth attempts to shoot Paul but Nina tackles her. The gun goes off. Just then the earth rumbles and they realize the mine is going to cave in. They get out just in time. Nikki is exonerated. Nikki and Daria's money problems are over now because of the opal mine. Nikki's anger and heartbreak over the desertion of her father is soothed. That night in Paul's hotel room, Paul admits to Nina that he killed the man that had been stalking Nina (in the previous Nina Reilly book). Nina is horrified though secretly grateful. Paul admits he loves her. They make love.
Best part of story, including ending:
This book moves at a fast pace and has interesting dialogue. The characters are interesting, multi-dimensional people. Although the plot is a little far fetched the writing is good. I enjoyed the escapist quality of the book and the recurring characters from the Nina Reilly series.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was the scene in the mine when Nina and Paul find Beth talking to the mummy of Nikki's father. It was creepy and awful but very well described.
Opinion about the main character:
Nina Reilly seems very human. Although she is smart and well versed in the law, she doesn't have all the answers and makes plenty of mistakes. She is devoted to her job and her son...in that order.