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Can’t Leave Rachel Out! 

I wrote my first novel—GRAVE DESIGNS—on a dare from my wife. I was a young lawyer in a big Chicago law firm at the time, and I had no grand plan beyond finishing the manuscript and trying to see whether I could interest a publisher.

And thus when my agent announced that she’d received an offer from the publisher for the next two books in the series, my puzzled response was, “What series?”

“The Rachel Gold series, Mike. She’s a terrific character, perfect for a series.”

And so it began. DEATH BENEFITS was the No. 2 in the series, FIRM AMBITIONS No. 3, followed by DUE DILIGENCE, SHEER GALL, and more in the Rachel Gold series.

I took a break between two of those mysteries to write a stand-alone, THE MOURNING SEXTEN, that Doubleday insisted be published under a pen name because of my association with the Rachel Gold series. And thus the author of that novel is one Michael Baron, whose dust jacket photo bears a remarkable resemblance to the author of a mystery series.

I missed Rachel, though, and happily returned to her and her band of cohorts in the next books in the series. But twice over the past few years, I have written stand-alone novels with no intent—at least when I typed Chapter 1 at the top of the first page—of bringing in Rachel. That first novel—THE SIRENA QUEST—involved four former freshman roommates reuniting on the eve of their 20th college reunion. But the mystery that brings them back together has a link to the last will and testament of Chicago attorney whose death had triggered the plot for that very first Rachel Gold novel, GRAVE DESIGNS. And thus, about a third of the way through THE SIRENA QUEST, the four main characters gather in a conference room in a Chicago law firm to meet with a young attorney named Rachel Gold.

My newest novel, PLAYED!, is the tale of two brothers—the brilliant nerdy attorney who must try to save his knucklehead younger brother, who has been wrongly indicted for the kidnapping and murder of the wife of Leonard Pitt, a powerful and corrupt attorney. Once again, I saw no role for Rachel when I typed Chapter 1 at the top of that first page.

But around the midpoint of the novel, a few minutes before a crucial hearing in federal court, the judge’s savvy courtroom clerk, Rahsan Ahmed, has the following conversation with Norman Feigleberg, the judge’s geeky law clerk:

As Rahsan steps into the reception area, Norman is waiting with a big grin.

Rahsan sighs and shakes his head. “Now what?”

“The class action lawyer is out in the courtroom. Have you seen her?”

“No. Why?”

“Oh, my God. That girl is hot, Rahsan.”

“You talkin’ ‘bout Ms. Rachel Gold?”

“You betcha.”

“First off, Norman. She ain’t no girl. That lady is a woman. Second off, Norman, Rachel Gold ‘bout as smart and tough as they come—probably smarter and tougher than them fancy Chicago lawyers Pitt brought into this case. So my advice to you is don’t even be thinking of messin’ with her. She about ten levels above your pay grade.”

And a few pages later, Rachel steps to the courtroom podium for her brief but brilliant cameo appearance in PLAYED!