On March 1, the sequel to Charles Rosenberg’s legal thriller Death on a High Floor — Long Knives — will be published. Although I’ve not read either book, Death on a High Floor apparently involves the death of a Big Law partner — and the trial of a second partner, Robert Tarza, for his murder. The protagonist is associate Jenna James, whose “untested trial skills” are the only thing standing between Tarza and prison.
Rosenberg, a graduate of Harvard Law, “has taught extensively as an adjunct law professor, including at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles (where he teaches the course "Law and Popular Culture"), the Loyola Law School International LLM Program in Bologna, Italy, the UCLA School of Law, the Pepperdine School of Law, and the Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA.” And so naturally, for the sequel, he’s moved his feisty heroine to the (thrilling?) halls of legal academia. From the prologue and first chapter:
Five years [ago], I had decided, let’s face it, on a whim, that I was done with Big Law. And so, aided by a bit of luck and the dwindling memory of my fifteen minutes of fame from saving Robert Tarza’s butt from San Quentin, I left my law firm, Marbury Marfan, and transformed myself—poof!—into a tenure-track law professor at UCLA. I still worked hard, but I no longer spent my nights preparing for trial or my days battling the jerks, most of them of the male persuasion, who seemed to appear like clockwork on the other side of my cases.
. . . Another way to put it is that after lunging at every carrot dangled in front of me from the age of five—the need to ace grade school, stride down the aisle as the valedictorian of my high school, nail acceptance to an Ivy League college and then go on to Harvard Law School and make the law review—I finally had a life instead of a résumé.
Okay, that’s not quite true. There was still one last carrot dangling out there. I was up for tenure. It was November, and the decisions would come no later than April. But with four well-received law review articles published in less than four years—two on civil procedure and two on admiralty law—I was pretty confident I had that final carrot nailed, too, if you can nail a carrot.
Teaching and writing about civil procedure, with eight long trials under my belt, was a natural for me. Teaching admiralty law had come as a surprise; I’d never even been on a sailboat prior to arriving at UCLA. But fate twists your life in funny ways. The week before classes started for my first year of teaching, Charles Karno, who looked the picture of health and had been teaching the admiralty course for more than twenty years, dropped dead of a heart attack while running a half marathon. The dean had prevailed on me to teach it. “You can learn it along with the students,” he said.
I did and found I loved it, and particular liked teaching the law of salvage—who has what rights to ships, and everything in them, when they sink to the bottom of the sea. In order to live the law and understand it better I had even spent the past summer at sea as a lowly deckhand on a treasure salvor ship. And now, instead of my formerly pasty-skinned self, I was bronzed and, well, if not ripped, at least the most toned and buff I’d ever been in my life. . . .
James then heads off to a meeting with “Primo Giordano, a student in my Law of Sunken Treasure seminar,” whom she describes as “nice to look at,” “tall, dark and chunky handsome,” with “a terrific smile.” Alas, poor Primo soon turns up dead. Here’s the publisher’s description of the book:
Jenna James’s life has been smooth sailing since she left the high-powered law firm of Marbury Marfan. She’s happily ensconced as a professor at a prestigious law school, where she’s well liked by her students, coupled-up with a handsome colleague, and on track for tenure. But things take a shocking turn one morning when a student, Primo, comes to Jenna’s office seeking her advice about a treasure map he recently inherited. When Primo turns up dead and Jenna is suddenly the prime suspect in a murder investigation, everyone turns on her. Desperate for help, she calls on two old friends: Robert Tarza, her old law partner from Marbury Marfan, and Oscar Quesana, an odd-duck solo practitioner. The three race to save Jenna’s career—and perhaps her life—in this whip-smart thriller of treasure maps, murder, and law school politics.
With a Big Law partner, an “odd-duck solo practitioner,” and a tenure-track law prof at an elite school as the novel’s leads, the allegorical interpretations practically write themselves.