By -

Author: Joanna Jenkins
Publisher: Allen and Unwin

“Write what you know about,” budding fiction writers are advised. “Then your work will have authority.”

Clearly Joanna Jenkins embarked on her first novel with this advice in mind.

Her degree in English literature and former partnership in a male-dominated Big Law firm have provided her with both skill and subject matter. How to Kill a Client combines deft characterisation and symbolism with a long hard look at law firm partnerships at their most challenging. The location is Brisbane, a city Jenkins herself lived and worked in.

She presents all the usual suspects: misogyny, moral compromise, competitiveness and corruption. And a client whose intransigence and manipulativeness would bring even the most upright legal professional to their knees.

There will be no spoilers in this review. Yes, there is a client many people would love to kill, his wife and his colleagues among them. Suffice it to say that this book, in classic whodunnit style, has the reader harbouring suspicions from the start to the end of the book. And, true to its genre, this novel contains elements such as drugs, poison, backstabbings of a metaphorical nature, a desperate search for evidence in a dark, remote location, and more.

Jenkins describes with a style bordering on tongue in cheek the activities of a big law firm at its worst: mind-numbing meetings, confronting performance appraisals, and claustrophobic conferences.

The novel is written largely from the perspective of three women: Viv, a new partner battling with the boys’ club mentality in the firm; experienced partner Ruth, who is mourning the loss of her husband; and Anne, the dead man’s wife, the subject of both physical and financial abuse. The divisive male-dominated milieu of the law firms in this story is counterbalanced by the strong sense of responsibility the three women bear for each other’s wellbeing.

Established legal novelist Richard Beasley and true crime writer Vikki Petraitis have already doffed their hats to Jenkins for this debut. All readers of How to Kill a Client will probably be looking forward eagerly to Jenkins’ next novel. LSJ certainly is.