Jiro Kimura, who has now owned and operated The Gumshoe Site for 11 years, reports that legal-thriller writer Lelia Kelly lost a long battle with breast cancer on March 13th. She was only 48.

   According to information on her website, Ms. Kelly, a banker for 15 years, left the world of finance in 1998 and turned to writing instead. Her first two books are included in Crime Fiction IV: 1749-2000, by Allen J. Hubin. A third title has since been added to her bibliography, all in her Atlanta-based Laura Chastain series:

KELLY, LELIA (1958-2007)
      * * Presumption of Guilt (NYC & London: Kensington, 1998, hc)
      * * False Witness (Kensington, 2000, hc)
      * * Officer of the Court (Kensington, 2001, pbo)

   In her first appearance, Presumption of Guilt, Laura Chastain is a senior associate at a prestigious Atlanta law firm, but when the situation arises, she is surprised to discover she is good at criminal defense work, which is far from being a specialty of the firm.


   According to the Booklist review of the book: “After she successfully defends the son of a corporate client against highly publicized rape charges, an Atlanta policeman strolls into her office, asking for help with charges that he killed a suspected child molester in custody at a police station. Despite management’s misgivings, Laura’s supervisor, poetry-spouting Tom Bailey, supports her desire to take the tabloid-ready, racially divisive brutality case.”

   By the time False Witness appeared, Laura had become an assistant DA, giving up her former (and much higher paying) position. Publishers Weekly described the story thusly: “Wealthy Christine Stanley has been murdered in her upscale Atlanta residence, leaving behind two shocked and bewildered children. Suspicion falls upon her husband, financial manager James T. Stanley, even though his alibi seems airtight (he was out of town on business).” Laura is also said to have a “a sweet, low-key romance.”


   In Officer of the Court, according to one reviewer on Amazon.com: “Lelia Kelly’s heroine once more surprises the reader by not following any pre-established rules of the game as a prosecutor. Kelly presents the interesting point of view, of what a prosecutor faces, when he/she knows the person on trial is really innocent of the crime. Chastain follows her own moral code, and not necessarily what the law, or the pattern of activities we have allowed to surround the law, dictates.” As of this date, all six reviewers on Amazon have given the book the maximum five stars out of five.


   A fourth book was promised, but in a letter she posted on her website in October 2002, Ms. Kelly saddened her readers by saying that her cancer had returned. There would be a wait, she said, before Laura’s next case could be told. Sadly, it appears that the next chapter was not to be.