Perfectly Criminal

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  • Format: Trade Book
  • Copyright: 2009-03-24
  • Publisher: Dell
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With no one to trust but each other, three young female assistant DAs at the height of their careers go out on a limb to protect one of their own, in this riveting new novel from the author of "Defenseless." Original.

Author Biography

Celeste Marsella received her B.A. from New York University and her J.D. from New York Law School. She is a member of four state bars—New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Florida—and has actively practiced in all except Florida. In Rhode Island, where her daughter was born, she worked in a gritty criminal law firm. Celeste now writes full time and is currently at work on her next novel in this series, forthcoming from Dell.


Chapter One


Jeff Kendall lounged at the defense table, one arm slung casually behind him in an attitude that made his hard wooden chair look like an overstuffed Barcalounger. I can barely spell haute couture, but I'd swear on a stack of gambling chits that his dandified three-button suit was Italian hand-tailored. All that aside, though, it was those ballet-sized feet of his, peeking out from under the table in argyle socks and tasseled loafers, that gave me a familiar malodorous taste in the back of my throat like I'd just slurped down a bad raw oyster. What a freaking weasel Jeff was. A rodent when we were on the same side—prosecutors at the Rhode Island Attorney General's Office—he had devolved into a slug when he left the AG's to ooze into the pond scum of criminal defense.

Jeff's courtroom antics, alas, had neither evolved nor degenerated. Today he was defending the guy I was prosecuting, a creepy dude accused of shotgunning his wife to death in their posh Dean Estates mansion. Jeff was still conjuring up the same tired tricks to make up for his lousy legal skills—twirling his pen in the air like an autistic child or an idiot savant, trying to distract the jury from my impending closing argument. No need to overwork yourself, Jeff old boy, I thought. My case was built on a house of cards and I had nothing magical up my sleeve.

I unfolded to my gangly six-foot height and, clicking across the room toward Jeff in metal-tipped stilettos, I watched his raccoon eyes ratchet open in quaking anticipation of an early death. He stared up at me and fumbled his cheap courtroom Bic to the floor. I waited. My timing was always top-notch. When the pen clattered to rest between my black-stockinged legs, I turned to the jury and pointed, my arm completely outstretched and held high, like I was denouncing a Nazi war criminal.

"In a few minutes this man will stop twirling his baton and stand before you. He will try to convince you that the defendant, Micah Cohen, is a tortured and misunderstood soul whom the state is trying to crucify—Jesus Christ of Nazareth—"

Jeff bolted to his feet. "Objection, your honor!"

Judge Ragusta raised both hands in fatigued surrender. He was used to my courtroom drama and the curtain had just opened on my finale.

"She's only just begun, Mr. Kendall. Let's allow her a little more . . . rope."

The jury was confused. They looked worried, nonplussed. Had there been evidence involving rope at trial? A lasso perhaps? A noose? A garrote?

"What the judge is suggesting," I explained, "is that I might eventually get myself in trouble by saying something I'm not supposed to say, like telling you things the defendant doesn't want you to know."

The judge rolled his eyes. Jeff clamped his shut. And I continued without objection.

"But I will gladly get myself in trouble with this court if it means that Micah Cohen will be punished for murdering his wife. I'll gladly sacrifice myself on a cross right next to his gallows."

"As if," Jeff whined in this incredibly teensy voice.

"Mr. Kendall," the judge warned.

I nodded a sweet smile at the judge. "Thank you, your honor," I said, sighing deeply. "I do tend to become overemotional when a defenseless woman's brains are splattered all over her bedroom ceiling and have to be scraped off by a local cleaning crew."

The jury sucked air into its collective lungs. A united choral gasp. I really wanted to bow, but I knew my limits. They were gobbling up my soap-opera slop. Not an easy performance, might I add. Juries, by nature, are a resentful group—captivity is a bitch. My job was to make these twelve people feel like righteous avenging angels of a dead woman's soul—to make them exult as they were herded into a stifling hot

Excerpted from Perfectly Criminal by Celeste Marsella
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