Reviews by L. J. Roberts


SHELDON SIEGEL – Last Call. Mike Daley/Rosie Fernandez #13. Sheldon M. Siegel, Inc., hardcover/paperback, January 2022. Setting: Contemporary San Francisco.

First Sentence: At ten-thirty a.m. on Tuesday, December first, Judge Elizabeth McDaniel was running an hour behind schedule.

   As every lawyer knows, representing a relative is a bad idea. But DA Mike Daley finds this is a rule made to be broken when his nephew, Joey Dunleavy, is accused of killing a cop behind the family-named bar he manages. Joey and the victim, police officer Eddie Corcoran, were seen arguing in the bar. Later Corcoran’s body is found in the alley behind the bar. Joey is covered in Corcoran’s blood and a knife engraved with Joey’s name is found next to the body. When Joey is charged with first-degree murder, Mike and his PI brother Pete must find the real killer to clear Joey of the charges, before the case goes to trial.

   Siegel begins with a courtroom scene imbued with humor. This serves to introduce the protagonists as well as the author’s use of Mike’s internal dialogue. While some may find the inclusion of the latter to be distracting, it provides an honest look at the steps of the legal process. With Siegel’s use of realistic dialogue, one always learns aspects of the law from his books. The author’s summary of the characters is helpful to new readers and a nice reminder to followers of the series.

   The author’s love of San Francisco is apparent and presents an accurate picture of it being a town of multi-generational families, made of up neighborhoods and great places to eat. For the foodies, there’s a temptation to make a list and eat their way around the City. And for locals, it’s fun to see mentions of places one has been and learn of new places to go. The one thing of which one may be assured is the accuracy of Siegel’s geographic representations. Although Mike’s family plays a significant role, it is nicely balanced and doesn’t overwhelm the plot. Even so, there is a wonderfully emotional scene toward the end and a nod to the impending pandemic.

   The plot is interesting and informative. There is the usual frustration with the police and the realization that their rush to convict is politically motivated, rather than ensuring they have the real killer. The information as to what it takes for Mike to go from working for the DA’s office to handling Joey’s case pro bono is fascinating. The investigation is laid out step-by-step and filled with unique, fully-developed characters. The sense of working against the clock effectively heightens the suspense and the twists are effective.

   Last Call is a very good legal mystery without all the oft-times histrionics of other writers. Far from making it dull, the accurate depictions of an investigation and trial provide plenty of interest and excitement.

Rating:   Excellent   [A Plus]