When a Woman Is Killed, Is It Always the Husband?
Robert Dugoni’s new thriller, Her Deadly Game, is well timed, coming on the heels of South Carolina Attorney Alex Murdaugh being found guilty of murdering his wife and son. When a wife is killed, the husband is often the prime suspect.
Defense attorney Keera Duggan is retained by a wealthy investment adviser, Vince LaRussa, after he’s accused of killing his wife. LaRussa has a lot at stake, but so does Keera. Having recently left the Seattle prosecutor’s office after an affair with a senior colleague went south, she’s returned to help save her family-owned law firm. Representing a high-profile, rich defendant could be Keera’s ticket to the big time, but only if she wins.
Keera’s father, Patsy, is a legend among defense attorneys in Seattle. A drinking problem, however, has slowed him down and led to some embarrassing moments in court. LaRussa comes to the Duggan firm hoping to have Patsy defend him. Keera intercepts the initial call and convinces LaRusso to hire her instead. Keera’s two sisters, Ella and Maggie, have kept the law firm afloat and resent her grabbing LaRussa as a client. But when Keera demonstrates all those years as a prosecutor have prepared her for a tough court fight, they quickly shift into support mode.
Having made it over that hurdle, Keera has other obstacles in her path. Her ex-boyfriend and nemesis, Miller Ambrose, is leading the prosecution and eager to beat her in court. LaRussa’s wife, Anne, was an award-winning equestrian until an accident confined her to a wheelchair. Keera knows that the optics of LaRussa shooting his invalid wife will not play well with the jury. While he seems to have an alibi – he was attending a benefit dinner – the fact that he returned home and delayed calling the police by more than 20 minutes provides enough time for him to have committed the crime.
The last two people to have visits with Anne before her death – her lawyer, Syd Evans, and her best friend, Dr. Lisa Bennet – hint that LaRussa may have had a strong motive. Anne and Vince had a prenup that stipulated if either had an affair, the damaged party would retain the couple’s entire financial resources. Although Anne has family wealth, Vince’s successful investment firm is worth $100 million. Evans was visiting Anne to invoke the terms of the prenup, charging that Vince was having an affair with Lisa. Video footage shows Lisa distraught after visiting Anne, possibly an emotional reaction after being confronted about the affair.
Knowing this evidence is damning to her case, Keera brings in someone who can help. JP Harrison was with the Seattle police department for 25 years, becoming a violent crimes detective. He now works as a consultant. His ability to reconstruct a crime scene often uncovers how a murder was actually committed. Desperate to win, Ambrose plays dirty, withholding from Keera a valuable piece of information that could help her case.
Every defendant deserves a fair day in court and an attorney that will present a vigorous defense. Keera vows to do that, but can’t shake the feeling that LaRussa is guilty. If she wins her case, how will she live with letting a guilty man escape punishment?
As a former journalist and attorney, Dugoni knows his way around the media and a courtroom. And, as the saying goes, this one is truly ripped from the headlines.
Her Deadly Game
Robert Dugoni photo, Sonders Photography