Friday, July 25, 2014

Face Value by Michael A. Kahn

Face Value: A Rachel Gold Mystery by Michael A. Kahn --- 253 pages

Attorney by day and author by night, St. Louisian Michael A. Kahn has just published his ninth Rachel Gold mystery. He says it didn't start out to be a Rachel Gold novel, it began as a "homage" to Sherlock Holmes with the character of Stanley Plotkin, a genius afflicted with Asperger's Syndrome and autism. Stanley works in the mailroom of Warner & Olsen, a powerhouse law firm located in downtown St. Louis. When a promising young associate in the firm falls to her death from the adjacent parking garage after leaving work late one night, the police and the medical examiner rule Sari Bashir's death a suicide. Stanley knows otherwise, but struggles to convince anyone to take his evidence seriously because of his disability.

At this point, Kahn realized, he needed someone who would listen to Stanley, and that character was, obviously, Rachel Gold.  Rachel gets involved because Sari interned with her during law school and Stanley's mother is good friends with Rachel's mother. When Sari's cousin and father ask Rachel to review the police file because they are convinced Sari would never take her own life, she can't refuse.

The police are convinced it's suicide because Sari was working a high pressure job, there is no one who benefits from her death, and the attorneys with whom she worked at the law firm all have alibis for the night of her death.  But when another associate at the firm who was friends with Sari confirms that she was worried and concerned about something that wasn't quite right in one of the assignments she was working on at the firm, Rachel finds a wedge to get inside the smooth facade of Warner & Olsen.

The solution  to the mystery of Sari's death involves the Facial Action Coding System, a scientific method of analyzing the muscles involved in facial expression to identify a person's true emotional and mental state. It also involves a complex financial product being used in a Ponzi scheme to defraud investors. With the help of Stanley and other friends of Sari at the law firm, and Rachel's loyal friend Professor Benny Goldberg and her mother (Widow Gold the Elder), Rachel and Stanley achieve justice for Sari.

Loaded with sly literary allusions, St. Louis landmarks and local customs, this a a welcome addition to an intelligent and funny series.  

Click HERE to read an interview with Michael Kahn talking about Face Value.

Click HERE to visit Michael Kahn's web site.

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