Sunday, November 25, 2018

Book Review: 'Forsaken Oath' 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 Three to date. Bt imbedded in this novel FORSAKEN OATH is the family theme she so abundantly share 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. ‘Dana picked through the mess of papers on her desk, making piles for tomorrow in order of priority. Exigent, Pressing, Necessary, and Would Be Nice. She was tired and headachy. As her fingers worked, she was elbowed by a recurring doubt: A year ago, what had possessed her to accept this position? Bureau Chief of Trial Bureau 90, the busiest bureau in the busiest prosecutor’s office in the country. Whenever that doubt surfaced, it afforded a little escape of its own. But indulging it was a mistake. The question was satisfied with a simple answer: just this. She loved this place, the people, the heartaches and triumphs. She belonged here. This life was her third baby.’

And from this re-introduction to Dana the plot proceeds as follows: ‘Climbing the career ladder, prosecutor Dana Hargrove is the new chief of a major trial bureau in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Years in the courtroom have earned Dana the respect and admiration of her juniors and peers. A few tough wins have also sparked the envy—and contempt—of certain members of the defense bar. In the summer of 2001, Dana’s plans for a well-deserved family vacation are interrupted by a few high profile cases that demand her attention. A renowned fashion designer is murdered in his posh Upper East Side townhome. An inmate, serving state time for felony murder, says the D.A. wrongly withheld evidence at his trial. A professional con man, the mastermind of a reverse mortgage scam, is blamed for leading a younger man into a life of crime. As the mysteries in these cases unfold, a common, unsavory design comes to light—Dana is the victim of a personal attack. A scurrilous media campaign can be endured, but when a criminal scheme touches Dana’s family, she must strike back. Confronting the greatest challenge yet to her professional integrity, Dana fights to protect her good name and the sanctity of her family life.’

Better than the omnipresent television crime shows FORSAKEN OATH 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, March 17

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

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