ROBAK IN BLACK: A Don Robak Mystery
Veteran Hensley's latest Don Robak mystery displays the careful writing, thoughtful tone and absolutely nailed characters familiar from past installments in the series. Since his last appearance (Robak's Witch, 1997), Robak has been promoted from defense attorney to circuit judge in the small town of Bington, Ind., but as a judge he's made some unpopular decisions. When his beloved wife, Jo, falls suddenly and deathly ill, Robak feels sure that she was poisoned. Though Jo survives, she is utterly incapacitated and disoriented. Among those who might have it in for Robak—and therefore Jo—is the family of Sweetboy Wolfer, a particularly nasty piece of work who raped and killed two little girls and is now sitting on death row, thanks to Judge Robak. Another possible deadly foe is the Macing Drug Company, the biggest business in town. Robak and Libbie Macing, one of the company's co-owners, were an item 20 years before, and there are moments when Libbie doesn't seem to get that it's over. Robak is trying a case involving the Macings, and it's unlikely the outcome will please the powerful family. Robak is unusual among fictional crime-solvers. No hot-headed hero, he considers everything and often opts for the safer path. The measured manner of the good judge occasionally manifests itself as stilted prose or a bit too much exposition, but usually it works well. Robak is surrounded by a delightful array of cronies who live up to their quirky names: Preacher Smyth, Sheriff Jumper Jimp and the Reverend Mo Mellish. Robak finds them good company, and chances are the reader will, too. (Dec. 10)
FYI:The author is a lawyer and former trial judge.