trial by fury


It seemed like a most unlikely instrument of death: a lady’s cobalt blue pump with stiletto heels. But the fact that it was caked with the blood of–and found damningly close to–a very dead man gives Seattle Homicide Detective J.P. Beaumont a solid lead into a case of lethal theatrics and unsavory union doings. He has a pay stub, a matchbook, one corpse–and an unsettling feeling of more to come. And he has a murder weapon. All Beau has to do now is find the woman who fills it.

My cousin, Polly Johnson, a gospel singer who hailed from Rapid City, South Dakota was on a plane that was blown up over northern California in one of this country’s first airplane hijackings. The character of Jasmine Day/Mary Lou Gibbons is my way of paying tribute to Polly.

In addition, one of my life insurance clients, a man who had purchased a disability policy from me, was one of the first patients to die of AIDS in Seattle. Even though I had left the insurance business by the time he became ill, his partner called me for help when the insurance company was reluctant to pay the claim. I spoke to the claims department and was told, “The man has AIDS. He must have known he was sick when he bought the policy.” “If he had known he was sick,” I returned, “he would have bought life insurance not disability.” The upshot was that the claim was paid but probably not for more than two or three months before he was gone. Part of the background for Taking the Fifth (the fourth Detective Beaumont book) comes from what I experienced during that time.


AVON (1987) ISBN 0-380-75139-9