Thursday, February 1, 2018

Book Review: 'Deep Zero' by V.S. Kemanis

Back in 2013 this reader first encountered the gifted author V.S. Kemanis, reading her collection of stories DUST OF THE UNIVERSE and remembering that anthology is pertinent to her DANA HARGROVE LEGAL MYSTERIES of which there are now four to date with this DEEP ZERO. But imbedded in this novel DEEP ZERO is the family theme she so abundantly shared in that first book – ‘Somehow she manages to open dusty old memories of experiences shared in our own family history by concocting this group of stories about the special interactions that happens among family members. And it is only if we are honest about our own familial stories that we can truly appreciate some of the profoundly touching and at other times hilarious tales she walks us through, stories that somehow resemble secrets we'd rather not admit or wonders we are afraid will diminish if we but mention them aloud.’ Now this California native lives in New York and is a respected attorney who is a criminal prosecutor for county and state agencies, argued criminal appeals for the prosecution and defense, and conducted complex civil litigation. Another aspect of her humanity is evident in the her history of being an accomplished dancer who has performed, taught and choreographed in California, Colorado, and New York. A well-rounded humanist who happens to write brilliantly.

Dana Hargrove is an attorney, much like our author, and the intense intuition and knowledge of the law makes Dana a very credible character. ‘On the dot of seven, traffic was still medium light on the parkway, building steadily. Most of the southbound commuters were headed for Manhattan. For Dana and many others, the destination was White Plains, the business hub of this suburban county. She liked to get a jump on the world and beat the worst traffic. By seven thirty, she’d roll into the underground lot at the County Courthouse, happy to leave the clogged parkway behind… Dana held back from changing the station, not because of the quints or the love knots, but to hear the report on substance abuse. Local news programs reflected the pulse of the community, and it behooved her to listen. Of course, there could be interruptions. The Bluetooth was enabled to receive calls from home or the office. There were always plenty of both, spanning a broad spectrum of emergencies.‘

And from this re-introduction to Dana the plot proceeds as follows: ‘It's one a.m. Do you know where your teenagers are? Prosecutor Dana Hargrove makes it a point to know. But one night, in the dead of winter, she should have known more. In February 2009, Dana is the newly-elected district attorney of a suburban county north of Manhattan, where she lives with her husband, attorney Evan Goodhue, and their two teenage children. The Great Recession has seen a rise in substance abuse and domestic violence. It's also the era of burgeoning social media, an intoxicating lure for wayward and disaffected teens who find new methods of victimization: a game to some, with no thought of the consequences. During an arctic cold snap, the body of a high school student is discovered, lodged in the ice floes of the Hudson River. People are crying for justice, but there doesn't seem to be a law that fits. Days later, in one hellish night, Dana's children are sucked into a criminal investigation against several of their classmates, making her a convenient target for community outrage’

Better than the omnipresent television crime shows, DEEP ZERO along with the other installments in this series pleads to be a film. This is informed, thrilling action in and out of the courtroom and few can portray it better than V.S. Kemanis. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, January 18
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.