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Review: Bitter Choices: A Stan Turner Mystery
Norm Goldman --  BookPleasures.com Norm Goldman -- BookPleasures.com
Montreal, QC
Sunday, February 5, 2023


Author: William Manchee

Publisher: Top Publications Ltd

ISBN: 9798987482209

In Bitter Choices, the most recent tautly organized thriller in William Manche's The Stan Turner Mysteries, we once again meet up with Stan Turner, his partner, Paula Waters, associate attorney, Jodie Marshall, their secretary Maria, and the most recent addition to the firm, Stan's son, Reggie, just out of law school.

The opening chapter finds Stan welcoming a new client, Ruben Acosta, who seeks advice on protecting his assets against lawsuits. Ruben analyses Ruben's various businesses and describes how restructuring could be effectuated. One method would be to set up an irrevocable trust. However, Ruben would need one or more alternate trustees and executors to handle his affairs if he dies or becomes incapacitated. This could be a family member, friend, or business associate. Ruben confesses to Stan that he doesn't know anyone who could take over. He asks if Stan's firm could act in this capacity and is informed that the firm does not take on fiduciary appointments.

Stan also brings up the matter of Ruben's inheritors if he dies. Ruben tells Stan he wants to leave everything to the non-profit New Hope Legal Clinics. The clinics help undocumented aliens living in the United States with their legal problems.

Against his better judgment, Stan eventually agrees to act as a trustee. Little does he know this would be a grave mistake that could put his life and the people close to him in jeopardy. It turns out that Ruben's business entities were a front for the dangerous Mexican cartel, Las Guias Cartel, and their leader, Carlos Herrera. And this is not the only problem Stan would experience. A short time after agreeing to take on the case, Ruben goes missing and is eventually found dead in his hotel suite.

The death of Ruben leaves Stan as the sole executor of his estate and trustee of the trust he had created. Shortly after his appointment, members of the cartel break into his home, ambush him, and inform him that Ruben had been working for the organization. They now want him to continue their arrangement.

The story shifts when Reggie is "gung- ho" about a personal injury case that was referred to him by a college friend. During a lunch break with Reggie and Jodie, Stan tells his son that the firm does not take on these cases. Reggie mentions the firm needs to make more money, and they should take on these lucrative cases. Reggie has decided to specialize in personal injury litigation. He is tired of dealing with the firm's bankruptcy cases, which he finds uninteresting.

Stan and Jodi agree to hear more about Reggie's referral. He explains to them that his friend's half-sister, Amanda Rich, and her six-year-old daughter, Julie, were in a car accident. When Amanda left work, she picked up her daughter at daycare after putting in a double shift at Southern Battery Company. On their way home, she lost control of the car, crossed the center line, and crashed into a vehicle. Amanda nearly died twice on the operating table and had multiple serious injuries. Julie escaped with only a broken arm and lots of cuts and bruises.

Stan reluctantly agrees to permit Reggie to try to convince Amanda and her mother to take on their law firm to handle Amanda's and Julie's personal injury case. The case becomes more complicated when the driver of the car Amanda hit, Dr. Kenneth Shore, died because of the accident. Amanda is charged with negligent homicide and could face time in prison. Reggie convinces Amanda and her mother to employ his firm as her attorney. The case seems hopeless when various details concerning Amanda's health problems crop up.

Bitter Choices is a tightly packed legal thriller with essential components that create great suspense, sensitive characters, and exciting narrative tension. It is sharp, witty, occasionally amusing, and constantly engaging. When mixing these with authoritative minutiae about trusts and estates and the wheeling and negotiating of attorneys in personal injury lawsuits, we end up with a compulsively riveting page-turner with no simple answers. As the narrative bounces back and forth between the two cases, Manchee doesn't waver to pull out all the stops, frequently surprising the reader with some unexpected twist of events. In addition, he recognizes that creating legal fiction calls for a prudent balancing act. He pens with credibility when dealing with legal matters, though he still tells a captivating narrative without putting his readers to sleep with esoteric details.

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 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

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Name: Norm Goldman
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