Judgement Day by Mali Waugh is essentially a police procedural but we dip enough into the world of the judiciary that it equally qualifies as a legal procedural. Either way it’s an excellent debut by Waugh and gives us a twisty crime to solve and infuses just enough of the non-investigative stuff to offer up characters of substance I’d like to meet again.
by Mali Waugh
Published by Macmillan Australia
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
Family law judge Kaye Bailey is found murdered in her chambers. Is this the work of a disgruntled complainant? Or an inside job by a jealous colleague? Or is there something even more insidious at the heart of this brutal act?
Detective Jillian Basset is just back from maternity leave, struggling with new motherhood as she tackles the biggest case of her career. As her work and home lives get messier and messier, though, something's going to give.
We’re introduced to Jillian on her first day back at work as a Detective Senior Sergeant following maternity leave when she’s assigned the case of the murdered Family Law Court judge. She’s paired with the person who’s been acting in her role and there’s a bit of a turf war initially as she finds her feet. Sergeant John McClintock (Mick) is also the kind of person Jillian hates. Overly polished and far far too smooth and charming.
We quickly learn all is not well with Jillian – at least in a personal sense – as, since the birth of her son Ollie, she’s been preoccupied with thoughts that she’s likely to ‘damage’ him in some way. She doesn’t understand where this comes from but is convinced her fears are right… and we get a glimpse into her past and relationship with her own mother. So, it’s a little more than post-partum depression, and she’s skipping treatment much to the disappointment of her husband Aaron, who’s become Ollie’s primary caregiver.
This impacts on her work in both good and bad ways. Sure, she’s slightly distracted and overwhelmed with guilt, but her desire to not be home during Ollie’s waking hours means she puts in long days on the job including weekends.
Her doggedness pays off as she and Mick track down several suspects… and red herrings.
There’s a very strong focus on family law here, with property settlements and maintenance payments, not to mention coercion and domestic and family violence, and Waugh gives us several cases or examples of relationships gone very wrong so we’re reminded of what’s been at stake – for the now-deceased judge and those whose cases she presided over.
We also learn a little about the operations of the courts and politics accompanying that. Waugh’s own background as a lawyer means she can effortlessly reference the justice system and law enforcement practices with ease.
I enjoyed this book, including the time we spend with Jillian, her husband and offsider, Mick, who turns out to be not quite as he seems.
I suspect this could end up being the first in a series and would welcome the chance to catch up with the players again.
Judgement Day by Mali Waugh will be published by Pan Macmillan on 28 February 2023.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.