States of Grace by Mandy Miller
Once an Assistant State’s Attorney in Florida, Grace got arrested for DUI while high on painkillers. The only way she has managed to keep from getting disbarred is to serve as court-appointed counsel during her probation. While she has been towing the line by staying clean and working for the State, she can’t help but feel impatient to get back in the thick of things, back to the big cases that make big money.
The murder of a prep-school counselor by one of his students would be such a case. Zoe Slim, the accused, is the daughter of a well-heeled, high-profile Florida couple. Normally, a case this notorious would be out of Grace’s league right now, but as luck would have it, Grace’s soon-to-be ex-husband is having an affair with Zoe’s mother. There’s an in for you.
From almost every angle, Zoe looks guilty, guilty, guilty. Grace’s determination to keep Zoe off of death row leads her down a dark rabbit hole of pill mills, corrupt cops, and desperate people willing to do anything to keep their place in society. But by the time she figures out who the real murderer is, it may be too late—for Zoe and for Grace.
States of Grace is dam— I mean, darn entertaining. Mandy Miller’s descriptions of people and places are rich and vibrant, providing succulent meat on the strong, well-structured bones of the plot. She’s done a bang-up job with the story line, smoothly and nonchalantly moving the reader in one direction, then—Bam!—Grace goes for a run and everything changes. Her characters are people you know, or in some cases, maybe wish you didn’t. Her protagonists have integrity despite reasons not to and the baddies are corrupted in ways that make you see how they got there. Author Mandy Miller has set the bar quite high for herself in her debut novel. However, you get the feeling that she is just starting to plumb the depths of her writing talent and that her future novels will set the bar higher still.