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Skeleton Justice    by Michael Baden & Linda Kenney Baden order for
Skeleton Justice
by Michael Baden
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

The husband and wife writing team of Michael and Linda Kenney Baden has a hit on their hands with their second mystery novel, Skeleton Justice. Michael is one of America's leading forensic experts and the host of Autopsy, the popular HBO documentary series. Linda is a trial attorney; along with winning in the courtroom dozens of times, she has appeared as a guest legal commentator on numerous television programs.

While their protagonists (pathologist Dr. Jake Rosen and lovely litigator Manny Manfreda) are fictional, it is easy to see in the Badens' writing that their dialogue comes from years of interaction and ease with each other. Jake is in love with Manny, but she and her dog Mycroft are not quite ready to dedicate themselves to a committed relationship. However it could work out some day.

Someone, nicknamed the Vampire by the Manhattan press corps, has been attacking victims and drawing a syringe of blood. Why? As yet, no one knows. When this escalates to vicious torture and murder, Manny and Jake both become involved, though on different levels. Jake is deputy chief medical examiner while Manny, a top litigator, is also a shoe groupie. Her very dependable assistant is a cross dresser and it is no surprise to find him in a full length gown at his desk. But reliability is the key here.

The novel, while fiction, does delve into the period of time when many citizens of Argentina were disappeared and never seen again. The United States' part in this is not just suspect but on record.

I can't go any further as I don't want to spoil a tightly written and highly suspenseful plot. The Badens breathe life into characters who shine, each in their own way. The reactions they all have to a rotten situation feels true to life. Though this couple could be compared to other duos in the mystery genre, Mother always said comparisons are odious and she was right. Manny and Jake stand under a bright light all by themselves. Skeleton Justice is a great episode in a great series.

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