THE KILLING OF MINDI QUINTANA is attorney Jeffrey A. Cohen’s first novel, and not surprisingly, it’s a legal thriller – sort of. But it’s also a psychological thriller and a commentary on society and the justice system.
For the first half of the book, the focus is on Freddy Builder, the manager of the china department in a downtown Philadelphia department store. Freddy is an aspiring writer, and when he reconnects with Mindi Quintana, a woman he dated briefly in college who is now an editor for a literary magazine, Freddy is convinced that it’s fate. Not only is he going to be published and become famous for his writing, but he’s also going to make Mindi fall in love with him.
Well, of course things don’t work out that way, and since the title itself is a spoiler, it comes as no surprise when Freddy winds up murdering Mindi, although Cohen generates some decent suspense by making the reader wonder when and how the murder is going to take place.
Once it does, the legal thriller part of the book kicks in. Freddy is arrested quickly for the crime and prosecuted by a politically ambitious young assistant district attorney. The public defender assigned to Freddy’s case becomes the central character in this portion of the novel, as he struggles not only with the legal part of the case but also its ethical ramifications, because Freddy, while in jail awaiting trial, starts to write about what happened and becomes what he always wanted to be: a famous author. All he had to do was kill for it.
As a first-time author, Cohen sometimes has a little trouble keeping his plot moving along at the sort of pace I enjoy, and some of the book is so bizarre and almost surreal, especially the department store scenes, that they didn’t really work for me. However, he’s created some interesting characters and come up with enough plot twists and the occasional really good line that I was happy to keep reading. And the final resolution of the case is pretty satisfying, too. THE KILLING OF MINDI QUINTANA is a solid debut novel that promises even better things to come from Jeffrey A. Cohen.