KATE WILHELM – The Best Defense. Barbara Holloway #2, St. Martin’s Press, hardcover, 1994. Fawcett, paperback, 1995.

   Kate Wilhelm is equally well known as a science-fiction and crime writer — not enough in either field — and has written many books in both genres dating back to 1963. She’s written five books about a husband-and-wife private eye team set in Oregon, but this isn’t one of them. She is, I think, under-appreciated.

   Barbara Holloway isn’t looking to take on any new cases, but when the sister of an accused baby killer comes to her and says that the woman’s public defender isn’t doing his job, she agrees to at least look into it. She finds it to be true, and also finds that a concentrated smear campaign is being waged by a local right-wing newspaper publisher — one that is quickly broadened to include her when she takes a hand. She is convinced of the woman’s innocence, which means that there is a real killer loose. As she begins to build her case, she finds tangible evidence of this.

   1994 is shaping up to be my year for courtroom dramas. First William Harrington’s Town on Trial, and now this, both better than any I’ve read in years. I think this is Edgar material. Wilhelm has created an appealing and believable character in Barbara Holloway, and the rest of the characters are equally well done. The courtroom scenes are excellent, and narrative tension is maintained throughout the story.

   Let me revise my opening statement and say that Wilhelm is very under-appreciated. The book, by the way, has much to say about battered women and the more conservative element of the pro-life group, and says it cogently and well. The story is brought to a successful conclusion, it should be noted, without the orgy of violence which has become so prevalent in the field.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #11, January 1994.

       The Barbara Holloway series —

1. Death Qualified (1991)
2. The Best Defense (1994)
3. Malice Prepense (1995), reprinted as For the Defense (1997)
4. Defense for the Devil (1999)
5. No Defense (2000)
6. Desperate Measures (2001)
7. The Clear and Convincing Proof (2003)
8. The Unbidden Truth (2004)
9. Sleight Of Hand (2006)
10. A Wrongful Death (2007)
11. Cold Case (2008)
12. Heaven Is High (2011)
13. By Stone By Blade By Fire (2012)
14. Mirror, Mirror (2017)

   There are also 12 books in Kate Wilhelm’s Constance and Charlie series, the husband-and-wife PI team that Barry mentioned in passing. Not a bad resume for an author who is or will be 89 this year and is still probably better known as a SF writer. (See the comments for a correction on the number of Constance and Charlie books.)