How to Kill a Client by Joanna Jenkins

Reviewed by Patricia Simms Reeve

This is a first novel by Joanna Jenkins, herself a partner in an international law firm before deciding to write full-time. Her experience has given this thriller a marked ring of authenticity as she recounts the stresses and demands of a large, successful firm that is driven to acquire lucrative contracts with potential clients.

The plot is made more real by her setting the dramas in Brisbane, referring to such well- known features of the city: Story Bridge, Eagle St, and Fortitude Valley.

Gavin Jones is the victim of what at first is diagnosed as a heart attack. It soon emerges that he has been murdered. Prior to this, a large part of the novel establishes episodes where Gavin is obviously a possible target for murder – not by one but several workers at the Howard Greene Associates, this highly successful law practice. His abused wife, Anne, has motive as well.

Jones is unattractive in many ways, physically and morally. He works for Minerallic, a mining company which will pay millions for legal advice and representation. He is unscrupulous, greedy and impervious to the animosity he cultivates. Yet Howard Greene partners are anxious to win the contract. The decision lies in his hands.

Woody Allen once stated, ‘ only two things should be feared – death and lawyers’. Some of the male characters demonstrate that they will stop at nothing to win the approval of Gavin. They crave the means to enable them to indulge in their lavish lifestyles. Their world is at times a deluded one, made less attractive by misogyny even though here, women form a minority.

Ruth, a partner seconded from Sydney, is an expert in the field of negotiation and competition. She supports other women, Viv and Geri especially, determined that their hard work and outstanding contribution are acknowledged. She also manages to connect with Anne, Gavin’s wife, and together with Viv, they offer a sympathetic friendship.

Very cleverly, Joanna Jenkins has constructed a scenario which points to various suspects in turn. At the finale, when a surprising denouement suggests yet another possible perpetrator, there is an additional twist.

How To Kill a Client is well paced and makes a thrilling read. The author resists the hurried final explanation. It is all convincingly neat in the conclusion. The various characters and the narrative could have been clumsily steered; on the contrary, they are masterfully directed.

The hurdles that confront women in this profession is a major part of the drama, and it is a relief when the unfair and misguided attitudes of some male partners are grudgingly reassessed

Law as practised currently will eventually be superseded by block chain technology which will give outcomes to clients untainted by overworked, overpaid barristers and solicitors.
The world portrayed in this novel will not be mourned when it vanishes, but it also means there will not be the intricate and dramatic background to such entertaining novels as this one!

How to Kill a Client


by Joanna Jenkins

Allen and Unwin

ISBN 978 176106 683 2

$32.99; 384pp

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