A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Marcia Muller


LESLEY EGAN – A Case for Appeal. Harper & Brothers, hardcover, 1961. Popular Library, paperback, date?

   Lesley Egan is a pseudonym for Elizabeth Linington, who also writes under the name of Dell Shannon. The author is well known for her three series of police procedurals done under these names, and while the procedure is very sound, it is interest in the recurring characters’ lives and personal problems that seems to draw readers to these popular books.

   A Case for Appeal introduces Jewish lawyer Jesse Falkenstein and his policeman friend Captain Vic Varallo. Varallo has called Jesse away from Los Angeles to the little southern California valley town of Contera to defend accused murderess Nell Varney — a woman Varallo has arrested, but whose guilt he doubts. As the story opens, Nell has just been convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of two women upon whom she supposedly performed illegal abortions. Jesse — who was called in too late to do any investigation or prepare a solid defense- intends to appeal the case. But to make a case for appeal, he must find the woman resembling Nell who really performed the abortions.

   With Varallo’s help, Jesse gets to know the families of the victims and the town of Contera itself — no small chore for a Jewish lawyer from the big city. And as he sifts through the testimony, it becomes apparent that deathbed statements from the aborted women can be taken in more than one way, and that someone is manipulating the interpretation of them. A nice romance between lawyer and client, plus Varallo’s conflict about staying in this town where he has come because of his family, a reason no longer valid — provide the provocative personal background that is typical of Egan.

   Falkenstein has an odd style of speaking that at first is confusing, but once the reader becomes familiar with it, the story — told largely through dialogue — moves along nicely.

Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007. Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.