With so many lawyers running extracurricular sleuthing activities already in crime fiction, it's hard to latch onto yet another attorney with seemingly too much time on her hands. This is the feeling I had going into "Identity Crisis," by Debbi Mack (Lulu, 2009).

Fortunately, readers won't suffer through the 254 pages of Mack's mystery. In the protagonist, attorney Stephanie Ann "Sam" McRae, they'll find something both familiar and new. They've probably been down the lawyer-detective path before, but they haven't met someone as real as McRae.

That's because McRae has a real problem: one of her clients skipped town. Not only that, but this client appears to have stolen McRae's identity.

McRae doesn't immediately jump out of her chair and start cracking skulls. No, she cautiously investigates the pieces of what's happened. She's an unwilling participant with a lot at stake. The action definitely picks up later on, but readers won't get a sense McRae is egging on the bad guys.

And that's the real difference Mack weaves into "Identity Crisis." There are no "Law & Order" archetypes. There's a sense of care placed into developing the characters, one that's reflected by how McRae acts. Careful characters make for intelligent plots. This book won't talk down to or over readers.

This notion fades a bit as the book moves toward conclusion, with McRae engaging in some TV-style detective work, such as sneaking in after hours at a strip club. But that's forgivable, since it's all in the name of a good crime novel.

Which is fitting, since this is a good crime novel. McRae has staying power, something the author feels, too. A blurb on the cover says "A Sam McRae Mystery," suggesting this is part of a series.

That said, latter parts of the novel drag. The beginning is an explosion of intrigue and drama, but that fades as the page count grows. The mystery itself keeps readers involved, but nothing packs the punch of the beginning. Maybe that's an effect of coming off of 50 excellent pages, but it's not a deal breaker.

In all, "Identity Crisis" is an intelligent, intriguing and sometimes just fun crime novel. It's novels like these that lend legitimacy to the self-publishing and POD movement within the book world.

Click here to find Debbi Mack on CrimeSpace.

Click here to find "Identity Crisis" on Amazon.com.

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Comment by Debbi Mack on April 1, 2010 at 9:00am
Thank you so much for the nice review, Ben! I feel so legitimate now. :-)

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