Unlucky in Law (Nina Reilly Series #10)

Unlucky in Law (Nina Reilly Series #10)

by Perri O'Shaughnessy

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Nina Reilly takes on the most dangerous and difficult case of her career in New York Times bestselling author Perri O’Shaughnessy’s latest thriller. An ingenious blend of forensic science, history, and gripping suspense, Unlucky in Law pits the tough but compassionate attorney against the most unbeatable adversary of all: the law.

Nina has just received a last-minute call from her old boss and mentor in Monterey County, California, where she is enjoying the breathtaking scenery and spending time with her boyfriend, P.I. Paul van Wagoner. Klaus Pohlmann is in desperate straits and begs Nina to take over a seemingly unwinnable case: A luckless two-time felon named Stefan Wyatt has robbed a grave and made off with the long-buried bones of a Russian émigré. When he is caught and arrested, further devastating evidence found in the grave suggests that Stefan is guilty of a far more deadly crime.

A young woman, a classmate of Stefan’s, has been killed, and he is accused of her murder. Now, as a result of California’s Third Strike law, Wyatt is looking at twenty-five years to life whether he’s convicted of grand theft or murder. Either way, he’s in big trouble.
With her client’s blood DNA found in the dead woman’s apartment, Nina faces an uphill battle. Suspecting that her hapless client has been set up, Nina brings in a brilliant forensic pathologist who comes up with a startling theory about the case that could rewrite a crucial page of European history. As the evidence mounts against Nina’s client, Paul launches his own investigation into the shadowy past of the two-decades-old skeleton. But long-held secrets nearly get him killed and reveal a more insidious evil at work—and an extraordinary story dating back to tsarist Russia and the Romanov court. As Wyatt edges closer to the unluckiest verdict of his young life, Nina makes an astounding discovery that just might save her client—or expose a killer who could bury them all.

Brilliantly imagined and compulsively readable, Unlucky in Law is a beguiling mix of wrenching drama and gripping action. And it is Perri O’Shaughnessy’s most accomplished novel to date.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440335085
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/13/2004
Series: Nina Reilly Series , #10
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 163,788
File size: 631 KB

About the Author

Perri O’Shaughnessy is the pen name for two sisters, Pamela and Mary O’Shaughnessy, who live in Hawaii and on Lake Tahoe, and California and on Lake Tahoe respectively. Pamela graduated from Harvard Law School and was a trial lawyer for sixteen years. Mary is a former editor and writer for multimedia projects. They are the authors of nine previous Nina Reilly novels: Presumption of Death, Unfit to Practice, Writ of Execution, Move to Strike, Acts of Malice, Breach of Promise, Obstruction of Justice, Invasion of Privacy, and Motion to Suppress.

Read an Excerpt


Monday 9/1

Seven a.m. on the first Monday morning in September. Nina Reilly and Paul van Wagoner snoozed in his king-size bed in the sole bedroom of his Carmel condo. As the sun came through the shutters, striping the rug with light, Paul kicked off the covers on his side and, as Nina opened her eyes, turned over so all his long naked backside was displayed: the blond hair, smooth, well-muscled back, strong legs, and narrow feet.

As if he felt her attention, he turned to face her. Eyes closed, he grabbed her around the waist and pulled her tight to his body.

Nina was naked, too, the way Paul liked her. Herself, she favored expensive silks or shabby cottons, but since she had gotten involved with Paul, she had learned to appreciate what he called his simple needs. He liked skin, he liked the smell of her, he wanted nothing to come between them, so nothing did, at least not when they were in bed together.

This time with Paul was precious. Her son, Bob, fourteen, had spent the previous night with his grandfather. She had "freedom," in the way all mothers had freedom, meaning contingent freedom, but at least Bob was safe enough for the moment. She stretched in Paul's arms so her toes reached his calves and kissed his stubbled cheek.

"Mmm, coffee time," Paul said, smiling, eyes closed.

It was her turn. She didn't have far to go in the compact condo. When she came back with the mugs, Paul was sitting up in bed, legs crossed.

"I feel suspiciously elated, considering it's Monday morning," she said.

"Ben Franklin would call us slackers. He would have been up since five, making a kite."

"Progress means we get to do whatever the hell we want this early in the morning," she said.

Nina had moved to the Monterey area from Tahoe in early summer to be with Paul, just to see how things would play for them. She had gone to law school here, at Monterey Peninsula College. Her father lived here, and she had other old ties. But now, after her move from Tahoe and after a brief vacation of sorts, she had signed on for her second murder case in three months.

Her part started today, though the poor client had been counting the days at the Monterey County Jail for four months. A new case, a new chance to test herself and show her stuff, was always a thrill. So she felt good right now, enjoying the smoldering looks she was getting from Paul.

"Get back in here," Paul commanded. He patted the bed beside him.

"Be polite or you won't get this coffee. Triple-strength fresh-ground French roast. You'll never get better."

"All right, I'm begging you, please, get back in here. Or is the plan for me to admire you standing there with your hip cocked like that?"

She climbed into bed and pulled up the sheet, and they both sipped their coffee. Paul seemed to have something on his mind, so she held back the impulse to jump up and throw her clothes on, waiting to hear it. He ran a very successful investigation and security business. Selfishly, she hoped he was worrying about work and not anything that would slow her down.

He set his cup on the bed stand and drew her close. "Back to the grind for our girl. I hope Klaus is paying you a whole lot to compensate you for putting your life in such an uproar."

"I'm just glad to have a paying gig again, even though I'm coming in so late. It's going to be very demanding. But I've got you, and I've got Sandy to back me up, so I'm wallowing in a pleasantly fuzzy false sense of security."

"What about this case snagged you? You told me you weren't going to accept any more work until you made some decisions about the things that really matter. Remember?"

She knocked back some of the coffee left in her mug, remembering a distant time when she made decisions with only her own future to consider. But she had Bob to worry about, too. "Klaus called. He needed my help. And then the case . . ." She stopped. "I don't know much yet, but Klaus is ready to go all the way with Stefan Wyatt. He says Wyatt is accused of stealing a skeleton and strangling a woman in Monterey named Christina Zhukovsky. I'm going to meet the client today and start going through the files."

"Fine," he said, so absorbed in his own thoughts he probably hadn't heard hers. "But what is it about this case that has you looking so damned"--he paused to run his hands through the tangle of her long brown hair--"gorgeous?"

She laughed and hit him with a pillow. "That's your eyes giving you trouble. I've heard that happens as a man ages."

"You don't fool me," he said, pulling her into a full-bodied kiss. "You like distinguished. Aged red wine; ripe bananas; men with faces that show they've lived a life of excess and pleasure; flaky cheeses . . ."

"Shall I compare thee to a flaky cheese? Do you really want that?"

He laughed. "Anyway, have you considered this? Maybe this case will lead to a partnership opportunity. How would you feel about that?"

"Would you like that?" She knew the answer. She asked to avoid answering.

"Yep. You know I'd love to tie you down right here on the Monterey Peninsula. I'm always on the lookout for opportunities."

She smiled at him. "I guess I'll deal with a partnership offer when and if the time comes." Life felt easy here in his arms. Protected. But she was starting to notice something after this time she had spent away from work and from her own solo practice at Tahoe. She felt smaller, younger, less able.

Criminal defense work had always been her big place, her New York City. Good at her job, getting better all the time, she helped the hapless, damn it. She had a calling to go out and save miserable souls who could not save themselves, help them through the labyrinth, make sure the rules were followed and that they had their defense, even if they were guilty. She liked a large life. She wasn't sure yet how big her life could be with Paul.

He looked at her now, considering something, stroking her hair. Then he reached beyond her and pulled open a drawer to the bedside table. "Maybe the time has come," he said.

"What? Nobody's made me a partnership offer," she said.

He pulled out a small, ornately decorated enamel box. "Oh, but I have."

"Ah." She pushed her hair out of her eyes and looked at the box.

"Right. Marriage."

"We should have talked about this last night, at dinner, when we had time."

He shook his head. "Last night was chaos."

She remembered. Bob had decided he needed their dog, suddenly, for reasons known only to him, but he had been so insistent on her bringing Hitchcock that they interrupted their dinner date to drive back to her house to get him and then drove to her father's to deliver him. Paul had done it all so patiently, even though she had been fuming.

"Anyway, I don't want to talk, Nina. We've said it all and now's the right time for this. Mornings with you are so beautiful." He took her left hand and turned her to face him, popping open the box to reveal a twinkling square diamond ring, with two tapered baguettes flanking it.

He had asked her to marry him before, but the ring was a new, serious development. Nina held up her side of the sheet, gazing at the ring, her lips parted. The band, a sleek platinum, held the big stone between elongated prongs so that the light could dance around it in all directions.

"It's called an azure-cut--four equal sides. It was my grandmother's," he said. "A bluestocking in the early 1900's, I'm told. Seemed like the symbolically perfect thing for you."

"It's gorgeous," she said, stammering a little.

He took the ring from its box. "Nina, will you marry me?"

He had been patient with her. He deserved an answer. "I think . . ."

"Don't think."

She took her hand out of his, and covered the hand holding the ring with both of hers, feeling tears coming to her eyes. "I really love you!" she said.

"Then say yes."

"Marrying you means what? Staying here? Or would you come with me back to Tahoe?"

"I want you with me, Nina, forever and ever." Blond hair fell over his forehead, and his bare flat stomach creased delightfully at the waist.

"There's Bob," she said.

"He's a kid. He'll adjust."

"My work. Matt, Andrea, their kids. My whole life is in Tahoe."

"Unless it's here with me." He pulled the ring out and turned it in the sunlight, watching it twinkle. "Wear it?" he said. "Be mine?"

"I am yours."

"Yet, I get no answer." He said it lightly, but she could hear his disappointment.

"I just . . ."

"Okay. Bad timing, trial comin' up. So here's what we'll do. You try it on for size. See how it feels on your finger. Take some time. Think if you must. Sound like a plan?"

She let him slip the ring on her finger. She liked the way it felt, and how pretty it looked there.

They kissed for a long time, languorous, loving.

"Maybe I should wear it on a chain around my neck," she said, "or everyone will assume we're engaged."

"Wear the ring. Maybe you'll discover you can't take it off."

She glanced toward the clock on the bureau. Well, if she was a little late, so be it. Her client wasn't going anywhere. "Paul, I have questions."


"Being together," she said slowly, "what's that mean to you?"

He leaned back and laughed. "I don't want a Stepford wife, okay, or why pick you? There's a babe out there somewhere who is ready to bake a rhubarb pie for me, and even wash my dirty laundry once in a while as part of the deal. I hope you will sometimes. Maybe I'll do the same for you, in a pinch. I'm willing to go untraditional. I just want us to take the next step. It would be beautiful to marry you."

She rubbed a finger against his rough morning cheek. "What I'm trying to say is, how about a counteroffer? I don't see why two people who love each other, two strong people, have to . . ."

"Marry? It's not a bad word. Go ahead. You can say it."

She nodded. "Marry. It's not as if--you always said you don't want kids."

"I do say that."

"So that's not an issue. I mean, you have such a fine life here, your business, friends. And I've got another one up in Tahoe. I miss it. I think all the time about my little house and my brother's family, and I check the weather up there every day. When it's foggy here, I think about how sunny it probably is in the mountains. When it rains here, I wonder if they're getting snow."

"Is this a no?"

She shook her head. "Just, I have questions. Isn't what we have good enough? Isn't it excellent?"

"I don't know what to expect. I don't know if you're coming, going, staying."

"I'm not sure I know what you mean by 'marry.' "

"Enough discussion, okay?" He fiddled with the ring on her finger, centering the stone so that it glittered. "You know what I mean when I ask you to marry me. You know. Don't start quibbling. Now come closer, you're making my brain ache with all this talk."

Her thoughts whirled. Only his touch brought them to a screeching stop. "Is this close enough?" she asked.




"You always know exactly what you want and you aren't afraid to make your wishes known," she murmured. "I have to get to work. I have a meeting."

"Fifteen minutes."

"I really can't. Five."

"Five isn't enough for what I have in mind."

"Okay, ten, if you can convince me you'll make it worthwhile."

"Damn lawyers! Everything's a negotiation."

Later, his body wrapped tightly around hers, he said, "Nina?"

She was busy covering his neck with tiny kisses. "Yes, Paul?"

"I love you."

"Ditto," she said.

"I await your final verdict."


Monday 9/1

Nina walked down the hallway at the Salinas jail behind the guard and went into the cubicle he indicated. Featureless, windowless, worn, it held one scarred chair, a wall phone, and a shelf under the large window through which her new client would soon spill his secrets.

As soon as she had pulled the chair up to the window and placed her briefcase on the floor, the door on the other side of the glass opened and a hesitant young man entered. Stefan Wyatt had a soul patch on his chin and enormous biceps developed during, or maybe due to, his months of imprisonment. He wore the usual jail-issue orange jumpsuit, and tripped over the chair that faced Nina through the window before sitting down. The deputy, just closing the door from his side, reflexively reached for his weapon at the sudden movement.

At this first meeting with her client, Nina examined him as severely as she would a new pair of shoes, checking for hidden defects. Sometimes clients brought a smog of evil into the room along with their stories, and she knew right away: here's one who could have done it. This one didn't strike her that way.

"It's all right, man." Wyatt said to the deputy, who relaxed, seeing there was no harm intended. Fumbling with the phone, twisting the wire straight, he said, "Hello, there." Twenty-eight, tall, a college dropout with a spotty employment history--odd jobs, bartending, almost a year at a moving company, and six months on a fishing boat--he had blue eyes, an average IQ, and a great smile that indicated a nature so sunny even this dungeon hadn't stolen his spirit.

Nina showed him her State Bar card and smiled back, saying, "How are you?"

"Fine?" He shook his head as if uncertain of the truth of his own words. The blue eyes on her were wide open, bewildered.

Had Klaus forgotten to mention her during his visit the day before? "Er, I'm Nina Reilly."

"Right. You're working with Klaus. I'm Stefan. I guess I didn't expect . . ." He paused, smiling. "I guess I thought you'd look like Klaus."

Nina raised an eyebrow. "I probably will, at his age."

"Nooo. Not ever."

"Ready to settle down this morning and do some work?"

"Sure. Absolutely."

"Like Klaus, I'm your attorney, and you have the same privilege of confidentiality in talking with me as you do with him. Do you understand that, Stefan?"

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Unlucky in Law (Nina Reilly Series #10) 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Attractive, highly intelligent lawyer Nina Reilly is a force to be reckoned with. However, in this the 10th story to star this in-your-face California gal there's a dark force that may just reckon with her. Laural Merlington again gives compelling voice to a story that'll hold listeners until the final syllable. Nina's enjoying some much deserved r&r with the man of her heart, private investigator Paul van Wagoner. Major interruption: a telephone call from her boss Klaus Pohlman handing her a nightmarish case. However, she can hardly say no to the honcho at her firm so she settles in to defend Stefan Wyatt, a known felon. Hardly an estimable track record! Remember I said 'nightmarish' - Stefan has been grave robbing, disturbing the eternal rest of a Russian emigre. Further, a second body was discovered in the grave, a woman whom Stefan knew and he's accused of murdering her. What jury will believe in his innocence or that what Nina and Paul eventually discover dates back to czarist Russia? Imaginative plotting and likable lead characters make this a worthy listen. - Gail Cooke
Guest More than 1 year ago
The relationship between Nina and Paul is very disappointing. He deserves better and her relationship with her son as well as others is weak. One minute she comes off as strong and decisive and the next minute she is an emotional mess. The story was very far fetched and had some very weak moments. What ever happened to the other guy who came between Christina and Krilov? He was the heavyset bald man who attacked Christina. Paul makes the story move and provides a break in the otherwise monotonous trial sessions.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Attorney Nina Reilly moved from Tahoe to Carmel, California to spend time with her lover private investigator Paul van Wagoner to see if they can make it. As Paul offers her diamonds and great sex, her mentor whom she once clerked for, Klaus Pohlmann, a terrific trial lawyer, asks for her help in court. However, Klaus is not what he once was as his mind wanders with his colleagues at Pohlmann, Cunningham, Turk wondering if the great man should retire.

The client, two-time loser Stefan Wyatt, is accused of murder, grave robbing and grave burying as he is accused of stealing valuables from one corpse and interring a fresh body, that of a fellow student. If convicted of any of the counts, Stefan would become a long time guest of the State due to California's Third Strike law. Nina leads the inquiries with Paul¿s¿ help that connect back to Tsarist Russia; she also provides much of the legalese at the trial as she acts more like first seat than her befuddled mentor.

UNLUCKY IN LAW is an interesting legal thriller due to Nina¿s dilemma to be married or not to be married that is the question and the deterioration of the keen mind of Klaus (even her son Bob waits breathlessly). However, the key courtroom drama seems off kilter and never quite hooks the jury (reader). Still the investigation is fun to follow with its ties to Tsarist Russia and Anastasia on top of whether Nina and Paul move on or move out.

Harriet Klausner

ThePolyBlog More than 1 year ago
BOTTOM-LINE: Good story with the mentor, but the other stuff detracts . PLOT OR PREMISE: Nina Reilly gets a call from her old mentor to sit second-chair on a murder case that started with a grave robbery. . WHAT I LIKED: The story that the client tells is surprisingly plausible...he was hired to rob a grave, which he did. Except when he's caught, the cops go back and check the grave he robbed and find out that there's now a fresh body in it and he's charged with murder. It's a simple twist but there is little doubt through the case that he's not guilty and there is "something else" going on. And just to complicate things, her mentor is basically dumping the case on her, has done almost no prep, is showing early signs of dementia, and the PI he hired did almost no work either. Nina has her hands full just as Paul proposes. . WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: There are two threads running through the story that are less than optimal. First, the premise of the mystery is that the dead body that is stolen is tied to a society of Russian conspiracy theorists who suspect he was tied to the Romanoffs (hey, he's Russian, he must be, right?). This is about the fourth book I've read in the last two years that threw in a Romanoff angle, and it's not handled that well, although most don't anyway. Second, the marriage proposal from Paul leads to a bunch of emotional drama and angst, and detracts heavily from the story. It reads more like a bad romance novel than a mystery. . DISCLOSURE: I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the authors, nor do I follow them on social media.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book
DubaiReader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good in parts. This review is from: Unlucky in Law (Nina Reilly) (Audio CD)My feelings towards this book oscillated as I read it. I'm not a fan of courtroom narratives and found the beginning quite dull as we spent much of our time in the court. As things heated up, with more activity out in the real world, so did my enthusiasm. Unfortunately I was disappointed with the end which fell a bit flat, so only three stars overall.(Please excuse spelling errors as I listened to the unabridged audiobook and so may have some names wrong.)Nina Reilly is a likeable lawyer, efficient and determined. Her client, Stephan Wyatt, has been arrested for digging up the bones of a dead Russian, Constantin Zhukovsky, for $1,000. Stephan is the 'Unlucky' character of the title, as he discovered a dead body in the soil above the coffin and is subsequently arrested for the murder of Zhukovsky's daughter, Christina. Nina is defending him with little background research as the case has not been adequately prepared before her arrival (annoying/rather unbelievable). Her boyfriend, Paul, is a private investigator who works for the same firm and he helps unravel the explanation for Christina's death.The story also centres around death of the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, and his family nearly 100 years earlier. What happened to the two family members who were not accounted for at the time? This is an era that I had been intending to look into and so I found this aspect of the narrative fascinating.Well read by Laural Merlington, I'm glad I listened to this rather than reading it. Recommended as an audiobook, reservations as a straight read.
SLuce on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Quick easy read that was fun. Mystery.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I wonder if I am the only one that feels this way but I am so sick of Nina's whining about Paul. I couldn't even read this because of it. I hope the authors see this and make a change or I won't read the Nina series anymore.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having read all of the O'Shaughnessy books, this one was a real disappointment. The reviewer; 'Not Worth the Time' stated my sentiments. These two sisters can do much better than this. If you are into their books, I suggest you wait until this one comes out in paperback.