Another Strong Woman in the Mysteries of Marianne Wesson

Render Up the Body, A Suggestion of Death, and Chilling Effect

I don’t know how I missed these mysteries as they were published (1998, 2000, 2004 respectively). A friend from my days in Boulder recommended them, and I was delighted to read this great series by Marianne Wesson starring Cinda Hayes, a young Boulder lawyer. In the first novel, Render Up the Body, Cinda has just moved from work as a DA to heading up the Boulder County Rape Crisis Center when a former law school professor and current State Supreme Court Justice asks her to review the trial record of death row inmate Jason Smiley, convicted of rape and murder. Cinda reluctantly accepts the assignment, only to find her colleagues are shunning her and that her review of the trial is not at all perfunctory, as promised–in fact, she begins to question Smiley’s guilt. So in addition to antagonising the Rape Crisis Center staff, she is also running afoul of her former colleagues in the DA’s office. Even her closest friend, Tory, also on the DA’s staff, seems to be avoiding her. This is a great series with the Boulder setting, serious issues, complex and entertaining characters, and plenty of suspense. The issues are significant ones-capital punishment in this first novel–and Cinda’s take on them is informative and detailed. The law part seems far more accurate (to my unlawyerly eyes, at least) than in most legal novels, and Cinda is satisfyingly intelligent, resolute, and open-minded. She also has a sense of humor.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of visiting Boulder, some of the scenery may be hard to imagine. You have to see the Flatirons to believe how magnificent they are, rising seemingly straight up from the edge of town. Wesson seems to see the Boulder the way I remember it, even though she lives in its current, more yuppified incarnation. I was thoroughly enjoying my nostalgic return to Boulder, when in the middle of the second book (I think), Cinda’s partner Tory turns up with a Bouvier ( a fairly unusual breed of dog and the breed of my last two, wonderful dogs). Even though Cinda isn’t much of a dog lover, I was delighted with this cameo appearance. Oddly enough, another mystery series set in Boulder, Stephen White’s Alan Gregory mysteries, features Bouviers. Maybe it’s a Boulder thing!

At any rate, whether you know Boulder, love Bouviers, or just enjoy a good mystery, these are great reading!