I had read JF Freedman before and remembered that I really loved his style. Fallen Idols was an especially good and well-crafted mystery. Another one I really enjoyed was 2001’s Above The Law, a legal thriller and sequel to 1999’s The Disappearance with adversarial former district attorney Luke Garrison. Garrison lives in the woods, hiding from a past failure in a previous life in which he regularly sent men to the gas chamber. He rides a Harley, wears an earring, and has obviously left his button down, the rising star of the DA’s office persona. With Freedman’s gripping prose style and Garrison as an engaging and funny hero, he expected many stories in a new series. But his next book, 2002’s Bird Eye View, was a standalone. It was very good and a little more light-hearted than the two Luke Garrison novels, but then I didn’t hear from Freedman for two years until Fallen Idols. I think that’s why I lost track of him, it seems that he spends two years and more between novels.

But I was so glad I remembered it long enough to pick up In My Dark Dreams. From the opening chapter, it grabs you and sets a mood so dark and creepy that you’re already guessing, examining, and analyzing the characters’ psyches to guess who did it, and you don’t even know what’s been done yet. What is almost as impressive is that the novel is written in the first person and that person is a woman. Not many male authors can convincingly pull the female voice out of an entire novel, but JF Freedman does.

Public defender Jessica Thompson is a woman with a past, but not the usual past. Jessica is the daughter of an alcoholic mother who accidentally shoots her when she’s like 14 or 15 years old and one night she’s sneaking into her house. Jessica never comes home after recovering, finishing high school – at a different school – and living with an old friend of her mother’s. She never sees her mother again and, although she is very young, she does not actually form a bond with her surrogate mother. Upon graduation, she moves out, gets a dinky little apartment with a bunch of nihilistic hippy-type kids, and works odd jobs. She was a waitress, a cashier, and finally a nude model for an art class. hey, money is cool and it IS art. This continues until one day, on her 20th birthday, she enters Santa Monica City College on a whim. Eight years later, after immersing herself in it, she graduates from law school and begins working for the Los Angeles Public Defender. Six years have passed and Jessica is dating a classical musician and she contemplates getting married, having children and training to run her first marathon. She is out for a training run, around midnight, in the Brentwood area of ​​Los Angeles when she, almost surreally, runs into Lt. Luis Cordova, who she is keeping an eye on. There is a missing serial killer and he takes his victims during the full moon. He takes the third victim from him that night.

Jessica, being a fairly young member of the Public Defenders office, picks a client in what seems like an open and shut case and a fairly minor crime compared to serial killers and murder trials. Robert Salazar. One night, Roberto is helping a friend with a TV delivery when the friend’s truck breaks down. Roberto meets the friend and transfers the load to his truck and goes to deliver them while the friend waits for a tow truck. Along the way, Roberto stops at a convenience store to use the restroom and is pulled over by a cop, probably because he’s Chicano, never mind the accusation of a rolling brake and flashing taillight. Any excuse will do when he’s a Chicano in West Los Angeles at three in the morning. It turns out that the televisions have been stolen from a warehouse in Long Beach and Roberto ends up in jail. But Roberto is not a vato gang member. He is a pillar of honest hard work in his poor side of town and well regarded by all. He has never been arrested, is happily married with children. He is a lay minister in a store front church and a devoted youth counselor. He also owns a gardening/landscaping business that caters to the wealthy in West Los Angeles and also owns an old box truck that he uses to earn extra money as a trucker or delivery guy from time to time. But he got caught with a shipment of stolen goods and he’s a minority in Los Angeles.

One of Roberto’s clients is the very wealthy Amada Burgess, Los Angeles royalty. Amada steps forward and uncharacteristically swears on Roberto’s good name and with that confidence, Jessica wins an acquittal at trial. Meanwhile, The Full Moon killers is still out there, despite missing a month on the way.

A few months go by when one morning Roberto is sitting in his truck, waiting to start work at 7 o’clock. He is reading the newspaper and drinking a McDonalds coffee when Lieutenant Cordova walks up to him. Roberto, now wary of any contact with the police, believes he is being harassed, but lets the police search his truck. They find nothing because Roberto, of course, hasn’t done anything, but just as they are about to let him go on his way, Cordova finds incriminating evidence under the floor mat of Roberto’s truck. the Full Moon Killer has taken another female victim and is only a couple of blocks from where Roberto was sitting in his truck. He is booked as The Full Moon Killer and the evidence is powerful.

Was Jessica wrong? Could she have lost Amanda’s faith? You’ll find out when you’re seduced by this legal/mystery thriller with twists and turns to satisfy the most jaded reader.

Freedman’s prose is tighter than a good alibi, and riveting as could be. The characters are well written and she seems to have the ability to get inside the heads of not only capes and cops, women and Chicanos, but also the rich with their own secrets. She paints this story against a backdrop of the prejudice blanketing Los Angeles like the smog it is famous for and the detail in the courtroom is not only realistic but well researched. I can only hope he starts churning out more than one book every two or three years, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Jessica again, or even Luke Garrison and his Harley.

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