A Pinnacle Peak Mystery

Hannah Dain is a young woman who traded East Coast shores for the arid Arizona desert heat to practice her vocation in a family law firm. There she hopes to gain some measure of familial respect from her father, Richard — in consideration for an appointment to the federal court — and her older sister Shelby, a vixen with an attorney�s brain. Neither carried the same affinity for family; nor did Hannah�s desire to honor her mother Elizabeth�s memory in creating Dain & Dain as a true family affair seem to matter much to them.

The first case Hannah attained on her own merits, all priors had been referrals from Richard (whom she calls by his first name) was a land development sale for client Eddie Keene. The deal appeared to hold some potential for garnering a measure of respect � at long last � from Richard; but when a previous buyer surfaces, the deal collapses with Richard�s wrath descending upon Hannah�s shoulders for the $2 million Dain & Dain now appears responsible for paying.

Such bodes ill for Hannah in her strivings for respect from Richard and Shelby, as not only a lawyer fit for the Dain & Dain name, but also for inclusion in the family Dain itself. They recede quietly into the background, detached � one might say � from Hannah�s efforts in amending what could have destroyed the firm and clearing herself of all culpability.

In the process of clearing the firm from responsibility in Eddie�s loss, Hannah discovers something grander than a mere botched land sale. The deal was merely the first thrust in a scheme threatening the loss of more than just a simple $2 million.

Twist Phelan should be commended for taking what easily could have turned out as just another assembly-line legal thriller, instead writing a story so uniquely real and humanely personal that all people who enjoy the perennial good read can enjoy this. There is no prerequisite to understanding the nuts and bolts of the typical legal mumbo-jumbo. Legalese is prevalent, but not overwhelming to those of us unlearned in its structure. My own ignorance, I confess, for a lawyer in the purchase of land for development, did not prohibit me from diving into the crux of the story headfirst. I did not get it when I read it; and I still, quite frankly, don�t. But it doesn�t matter.

The characters here are so well written � Richard and Shelby, in supporting roles, can nearly be felt for the subdued antipathy they exhibit towards Hannah. Cooper, Hannah�s ex-boyfriend from Boston now working at Dain & Dain, seems as ambivalent towards a renewed relationship with Hannah as Hannah is towards reestablishing a relationship with him. Hannah, the main character throughout who strives to do the �family thing�, while honoring the memory of her mother, struggles with her feelings for companionship. Her sister can attract any man she wants, while persevering to prove her worth as a lawyer � and a Dain.

For me, Hannah Dain was the Dagny Taggart (from Ayn Rand�s classic Atlas Shrugged) for readers today. I absolutely loved her. She was tough, yet soft. I sympathized with her pain of non-acceptance from her family, as she relentlessly dug into the mystery threatening a cancer upon the family who �did-Dained� her. There was a strength I saw in her weakness that was truly remarkable.

I liked the choice of locales Phelan uses. Arizona is one state in the union I have yet to visit; but after reading FAMILY CLAIMS I do feel as if I made my first stop. The land is painted quite well with the words she chooses to employ.

Whoever enjoys a good legal thrill will enjoy FAMILY CLAIMS. It is a legal mystery/ thriller with a twinge of romance and plenty of drama. Shakespearian? In a contemporary 21st century manner — indubitably.

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