Title: Murder Aforethought
Series: Cabrini Law: Book Two
Author: Parker St. John
Publisher: Amazon/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 274 Pages
Category: Murder Mystery, Romantic Suspense
Rating: 4 Stars
At a Glance: While I can’t say I strongly recommend the entirety of the Cabrini Law series as a must-read, I can say I was intrigued enough by Murder Aforethought to breeze through the rest of the books in the series.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: A ticking clock. A deadly enemy. Can they keep their heads in the game when their hearts are already on the line?
Valentine Rivetti made a horrible mistake when he became a Marine Sniper at the age of twenty. Returning home with PTSD and a guilty conscience, he’s blackmailed into working for the mafia to save his family.
Maksim Kovalenko has everything he ever dreamed of growing up in a Ukrainian slum. As a notorious corporate attorney, he has the world at his feet. But wealth and power can’t protect him from the emptiness he feels every time he shuts his eyes.
When Val is arrested for a murder he didn’t commit, his redemption is a silver fox in a three-piece suit. But Val’s lucky day becomes Maksim’s nightmare when the mafia begins to cut loose ends… starting with them.
The passion between them is overwhelming, but can two solitary men learn to trust each other before it’s too late?
Review: Parker St. John’s Cabrini Law series follows a formula, and the author ran with it from book one all the way through the most recent release in the series, Reckless Conduct. While I don’t necessarily feel the formula worked successfully throughout the entirety of the series, I was intrigued enough by the characters themselves to read all four books, and hands down I believe Murder Aforethought to be the strongest of the bunch (Other Than Honorable is a close second), namely in that the romance is better developed while the action and suspense and the close/forced proximity elevated the entirety of the story a notch, including the emotional conflict between attorney Maksim Kovalenko and his client, Valentine Rivetti.
Maksim is an ice-cold, “if you have to ask, you can’t afford him” attorney who does pro bono work in his spare time—something he has to spare since he lives a solitary life that consists of nothing but work. The other guys at Alexander Cabrini’s legal aid clinic might believe Maks sees his work with them as slumming it for karma points, or whatever, but Maks sees it quite differently. Not that he’d confess his reasons to them, of course. Maks is a closed book, his entire demeanor meant to deflect personal connection, his sarcasm bleeding through every interaction, and he’s been resigned to that for most, if not all, of his adult life. Until Val is virtually handed to him on a silver platter.
Val was arrested and charged with a murder he didn’t commit, and he doesn’t fully grasp, not at the beginning, how lucky he is to have Maksim assigned to his case. Maks is a shark who doesn’t hesitate to use any means at his disposal, when he scents blood in the water, to clear his clients. He infers there’s something off about the murder charges the Portland Police Bureau are trying to make stick to Val (he’s far from an innocent man, after all). That is to say the evidence isn’t even circumstantial, it’s nonexistent, and it’s no time at all before Val is walking free . . . only to stumble headlong into an assassination attempt, in broad daylight, on the front steps of the precinct, with Maks directly in the line of fire.
The close/forced proximity comes into play when they go on the run from both the cops and the mob, and Val and Maks must work against the clock to find a killer who has had, and still has, a direct and personal connection to Val, while also protecting Maks’s fourteen-year-old neighbor girl, Emma, whose presence in the midst of all the danger is a story in and of itself. This book is steeped in danger and tension, and when St. John paired a man who walks through life like an open emotional wound with a man who hasn’t cared for anyone but himself for a long, long time, it inspired some good romantic conflict.
Murder Aforethought‘s similarities to the other books in the series begins and ends with the age gap and the older man falling for the rough-around-the-edges younger man tropes. Where I feel this book surpasses the rest is in the depth of characterizations and, as I mentioned before, the suspense inherent in Val and Maks going head to head with the mob and working to track down a killer. This book is more of a slow burn, not relying solely on sex to cement the relationship between the characters, and Val suffering from PTSD as a result of his time in the Marines adds an extra layer of emotional depth to the story. The premise of two alone and lonely men finding each other and falling in love, despite the seemingly insurmountable odds against them, never gets old.
Each of the books in the Cabrini Law series can be read as a standalone, so if you don’t want to invest in it lock, stock, and barrel, like I did, Murder Aforethought is, at a minimum, a good place to start. You might just get hooked.
You can buy Murder Aforethought here:
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