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The Midnight Call by Jodé Millman 

Was he insane or insanely clever and about to get away with murder?

When the phone rang at 1 AM, Jessica Martin knew something bad had happened. Her old high school history teacher and mentor, Terrence Butterfield, was on the other end of the line and told her he thought he’d killed someone and was now contemplating killing himself. An attorney, though her specialty was corporate law, Jessie took charge of the situation and told him to put his gun down, call the police and tell them there’d been an accident and nothing else, and she would be at his place as soon as she could get there. 

Jessie, at almost eight months pregnant, lived with her fiancé, Kyle, and they both immediately headed to Butterfield’s home, arriving just as the first patrol car did. The officers stopped her from entering the house, but she could hear Terrence telling one inside that he’d killed someone, and a gruesome murder scene was found in the basement. Terrence was arrested and taken downtown, with Jessie and Kyle following behind. They waited in the lobby the rest of the night until a criminal attorney Jessie contacted arrived to take control of the case, and they were finally allowed to talk to Terrence in person. 

Jeremy Kaplan had broken new legal ground as a young criminal defense attorney, but both his career and marriage had eventually soured, leaving him to take whatever cases he could scrounge. He’d eventually remarried and had a couple of children but continued having difficulties making ends meet. Jessie’s early morning call might give Jeremy the chance he needed to turn things around and once again have a sustaining practice. But the Butterfield case was going to be a tough one. He’d admitted to anyone that would listen that he’d killed the victim: the 18-year-old son from an important and well-known family in the town. But his job was to provide the man with the best defense he was capable of, no matter what. 

Hal Samuels III was the Chief Assistant District Attorney, and the Butterfield case was as high-profile as they came. His politically ambitious boss, District Attorney Lauren Hollenbeck, counted on its successful prosecution to secure her a judgeship. That was fine by him, he’d do what he could to help her make her dream come true until he discovered his old law school flame, Jessica Martin, was mixed up with the defendant, and a ruthless prosecution could destroy her as well. 

What an outstanding and exciting legal procedural! In The Midnight Call, the reader knows from the start who the killer is, though not the who nor the why of the act. The story revolves around the legal battle after the heinous murder is discovered and the impact it has on the characters, especially Jessie, Kyle, Jeremy, and Hal. There are dramatic consequences for all four, although none had a hand in the murder itself. The story is told from three points of view: Jessie’s, Jeremy’s, and Hal’s. 

I loved the main character, Jessie. She wants to be loyal to her old mentor, her fiancé, her unborn child, and even her firm, but repeatedly her eyes get opened to secrets and hidden agendas. She’s so bright, earnest, and driven to be a good attorney, become a partner in the firm because she deserves it for all of her hard work, and have her baby with Kyle, whom she’s positive is 100% behind her and her dreams. It was heartbreaking to watch her physical struggles with her pregnancy and relationships. 

Jeremy is another underdog in this story, and although I couldn’t like his client or what the man had done, I still wanted Jeremy to win his case. That was a tough sell, too, as his tactic could destroy Jessie’s career. 

Hal has followed a path to success laid out for him, first by his parents and then by his ambitious boss. He knows he messed up with Jessie when they were in law school and seems willing to make things as right as possible. But the cost to his wife, Erin, and son, Tyler, is yet to be seen. 

The Midnight Call is a fascinating legal thriller and modern domestic drama. The story is set in Poughkeepsie, New York, close to the big city but still with a hometown feel and appeal. I enjoyed watching the prosecution’s case being formulated and the creation of the defense’s strategies, but it was the personal dramas that really held my interest and kept me reading late into the night. Usually, I’m on the side of the defendant in these books, but although he has a sterling reputation and is touted as a handsome and charismatic man, he’s left all that behind by the time of the event in the book, and he was downright scary. I never knew what to think about him. Was he insane or insanely clever and trying to get away with murder? 

I recommend THE MIDNIGHT CALL to mystery readers who enjoy legal thrillers with a focus on the characters and the impact the crime has on them. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.

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