Looking for some good company to beat the blahs of isolation, social distancing and videoconferencing? How about a welcome return of St. Louis lawyer and veteran supersleuth Rachel Gold, the brilliant and engaging character at the heart of a series of novels by St. Louis lawyer and writer Michael A. Kahn?
His latest mystery, “Bad Trust,” is a fast-paced, engaging and educational work of fiction that contains numerous local and Jewish references. As in previous Rachel Gold novels, Kahn can make dry and arcane legal concepts such as trusts and estates accessible to the layman reader and a special delight to lawyers of ages who may need their batteries recharged.
“Bad Trust” is the 11th book in the Rachel Gold series. Once again, Rachel combines legal skills with the instincts of a veteran detective. Despite her intellect and investigative prowess, the character struggles to balance her professional success with personal. Widowed and now a single mom, she is dating the very marriageable Abe Rosen and feels pressure from her mother to take the relationship to a more intimate level, lest he loses interest.
Through it all, Rachel soldiers on with the motley crew at her small law firm and her best bud Benny Goldberg, who has been her solid rock since their early days as rookie lawyers at a large Chicago law firm. Rachel later returned to her hometown to start her own practice and, to her delight, the brash and brilliant Benny accepted a professorship at the Washington University School of Law.
The crude-talking, Brooklyn-born Benny is the perfect counterweight to the refined University City-native Rachel.
Rachel’s savvy is on full display in “Bad Trust.” The central character around whom the plot unfurls is one Alan Blumenthal, an utterly corrupt, ruthless businessman who took over his late father’s firm. He schemes to set up a trust to prevent his two sisters from gaining even one penny of his ill-gotten millions. Not a mensch, to say the least.
The sisters, Megan and Holly, hire Rachel and her small but dedicated team to contest the unfair terms of the trust.
Meanwhile, Blumenthal is attempting a personal makeover. He changes his name to Isaiah ben Moishe in an attempt to reinvent himself as a pious Orthodox Jew. He hires a ghostwriter to craft a sickening autobiography to make him look like a Jewish version of St. Augustine, who left a sinful life and became a venerated Catholic saint.
However, Isaiah ben Moishe is the very opposite of a saint. As Benny puts it, Moishe “is not exactly the Mister Rogers of Yom Kippur.”
When a key character dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances, and with many people on the list of logical suspects, Rachel Gold and Associates are confronted with both a civil lawsuit over alleged slander and a dramatic murder trial. Rachel’s legal brilliance is put to the test.
Kahn’s novels are fast-paced page turners. Most chapters are no more than two pages long, so the reader is swept along.
If you are a veteran Rachel Gold fan like me, you will be grateful for a breather from the incessant COVID-19 coverage. And for newcomers who like “Bad Trust,” the good news is you have 10 previous novels in this engaging series to binge on.