I wrote Motion To Kill when one of my then law partners complained about another partner. My advice was to write a murder mystery, kill the son-of-a-bitch off in the first chapter and spend the rest of the book figuring out who did it. I took my own advice, created the character Lou Mason and let him figure it out.
Here's the set up.
The ink is barely dry on Mason's business cards when the body of the firm's senior partner, Richard Sullivan, washes ashore at a lake where the firm is having its annual retreat. New enough to the firm to be above suspicion, his partners ask him to investigate. Mason takes on the case, looking for a killer who's got Mason in his cross-hairs. Investigating the case means running through a maze of high-level corruption, sexual misconduct, organized crime and cold blooded murder. Hell of a way to get to know your new partners - the ones that survive, that is.
Motion To Kill is set at the Lake of the Ozarks in southern Missouri and in my hometown of Kansas City. Whether he's in the Ozarks or the courtroom, Mason is a long way from being out of the woods.
Here's an excerpt.
A dead partner is bad for business, even if he dies in his sleep. But when he washes ashore on one side of a lake and his boat is found abandoned on the other side, it's worse. When the sheriff tells the coroner to "cut him open and see what we've got," it's time to dust off the resume. And the ink was barely dry on Lou Mason's.
The time was seven-thirty on Sunday morning, July 12. It was too early for dead bodies, too humid for the smell, and just right for the flies and mosquitoes. And it was rotten for identifying the body of a dead partner. These were the moments to remember.
Mason's dead partner was Richard Sullivan, senior partner in Sullivan & Christenson, his law firm for the last three months. Sullivan was the firm's rainmaker. He was a sawed-off, in your face, thump-your-chest ball buster. His clients and partners loved the money he made for them, but none of them ever confessed to liking him. Though in his late fifties, he had one of those perpetually mid-forties faces. Except that now he was dead, gray as a Minneapolis winter and bloated from a night in the water.
Sullivan & Christenson was a Kansas City law firm that employed forty lawyers to merge and acquire clients' assets so they could protect them from taxation before and after death. When bare-knuckled bargaining didn't get the deal done, they'd sue the bastards. Or defend the firm's bastard if he was sued first. Mason's job was to win regardless of which bastard won the race to the courthouse.