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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Her Deadly Game

Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld

Brilliance Audio

ISBN: 9781662500190

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Publication Date: 03/28/2023

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)

A defense attorney is prepared to play. But is she a pawn in a master’s deadly match? A twisting novel of suspense by New York Times bestselling author Robert Dugoni.

Keera Duggan was building a solid reputation as a Seattle prosecutor, until her romantic relationship with a senior colleague ended badly. For the competitive former chess prodigy, returning to her family’s failing criminal defense law firm to work for her father is the best shot she has. With the right moves, she hopes to restore the family’s reputation, her relationship with her father, and her career.

Keera’s chance to play in the big leagues comes when she’s retained by Vince LaRussa, an investment adviser accused of murdering his wealthy wife. There’s little hard evidence against him, but considering the couple’s impending and potentially nasty divorce, LaRussa faces life in prison. The prosecutor is equally challenging: Miller Ambrose, Keera’s former lover, who’s eager to destroy her in court on her first homicide defense.

As Keera and her team follow the evidence, they uncover a complicated and deadly game that’s more than Keera bargained for. When shocking information turns the case upside down, Keera must decide between her duty to her client, her family’s legacy, and her own future.

My Review

NYT bestselling author of the popular Tracy Crosswhite series, Robert Dugoni, cleverly uses the game of chess in his latest gripping legal thriller, HER DEADLY GAME. A defense attorney prepared to play. But is she a pawn in a master's deadly match?

Dugoni, at his best! Hopefully a start to a new series.

I loved Keera.

Set in Seattle, Keera Duggan, the protagonist of this riveting thriller, came from a dysfunctional family. She later overcame her environment by becoming a competitive chess prodigy.

Let's strategize the next move the opponent might make. A game within a game.

Can she utilize these skills to make her a great trial attorney in the courtroom? The battle between prosecuting attorney (ex-lover) and Keera, the defense attorney.

She learned from her youth to evaluate her chess opponents' body language—how they sat, their facial expressions, whether they had any tells like licking their lips when nervous, a tug on an ear when bluffing, a false smile. She also uses these in her legal assessment with clients and opposition.

"In law and in chess, you strategized not just your next move but for the many moves your opponent might make and how you might combat those moves. Doing this prevented you from being blindsided and helped put together a long-term strategy on how to resolve the game—or a case." —Robert Dugoni, HER DEADLY GAME

Keera had built a solid reputation as a Seattle prosecutor until her romantic relationship with a senior colleague ended badly. Keera struggles to escape her alcoholic father, Patrick (Patsy) Duggan's shadow, and make a name for herself as a lawyer.

Now she returns to her family's failing criminal defense law firm to work for her father. Can she restore their reputation?

When someone murders a disabled (recluse) wife of a prominent and prosperous Seattle wealth manager, Vincent LaRussa, and the authorities zero in on him as the prime suspect, Keera gets her chance.

Pioneer Square, LaRussa hires her to defend him when the Seattle police arrest him for murdering his wife, Anne. Someone shot her in the back of her head.

Keera, with a bright mind, proves she is her father's daughter in her own right. First, she is on the fence about whether her client is innocent, and finally, she does not care. Then, she changes her mind and feels certain LaRussa is innocent of his wife's murder.

But as the trial unfolds, Keera feels something sinister about Vincent LaRussa— it may or may not involve his wife's murder. What about Anne's friend, Bennet—a single mother of three?

Kerra is not someone to underestimate.

Who is Jack Worthing? The cryptic email. A protagonist in the play (leading a double life). What kind of game is being played? Has he made his first move? A case referencing literature?

"The truth is rarely pure and never simple." ─ Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

From chess matches Darknight to SeattlePawnslayer, the stakes are high. Were LaRussa and Bennet having an affair and presenting a unified front, like the Dark Night's bishop and the queen?

If so, Anne LaRussa had outplayed them by calling Evans and asking about how to initiate the forfeiture clause and take all the assets. It had been a deadly game, and she paid the price.

Something sinister beneath the façade? Is LaRussa a master manipulator?

Kerra is running short on time, but the battle, ready or not, was on!

With her vengeful former lover, Miller Ambrose, as opposing counsel, and the evidence stacking up against her client, she will need to think several moves ahead to win the case. She must gain enough evidence to establish at least reasonable doubt.

However, does Ambrose's ego and burning desire to beat Keera push him to a colossal error in judgment?

Highly creative, I loved the satisfying conclusion. Keera and her dad remind me a bit of Goliath (Billy/Patti) Legal TV series, which I loved.


I adore the author's brilliant and cleverly crafted writing, whether a standalone or a series. His stories are multi-faceted, and the writing is concise, crisp, razor-sharp, twisty, and propulsive. He stays on point without many side unnecessary plots like some authors.

Being an attorney, he knows his way around a courtroom. Excellent courtroom drama with a blending of cop procedural—a tenacious likable protagonist, smart detective, and a well-developed supportive cast of characters.

I am a huge fan of legal thrillers, and combined with creative chess metaphors— infused with literary classics, further enhances the book's enjoyment.

HER DEADLY GAME would make a great movie or TV series. Here is hoping this will be a new series—looking forward to seeing more of Keera!

Thank you to #ThomasandMercer and #NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: Mar 28, 2023

My Rating: 5 Stars


“Fast-paced legal-intrigue gold that could be improved only by kicking off a new series.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Fans of legal thrillers and crime thrillers will enjoy this tense, pacy page-turner. It begins with a bang and doesn’t let up until the gripping and dramatic conclusion.”

—Crime Fiction Critic

“One of the best puzzle books ever! I raced through the pages, which are packed full of compelling characters and taut gamesmanship, desperate to learn the answer to this extraordinary thriller, which is both whodunit and how-dunit. I would follow Robert Dugoni anywhere.”

—Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“I adore Robert Dugoni’s legal thrillers, and Her Deadly Game is his best one yet. I loved Keera Duggan’s strength and her heart, which shine through the pages, and I rooted for her every step of the way through this unputdownable story.”

—Lisa Scottoline, New York Times bestselling author

“Absolutely riveting. A juicy tale that will leave readers hungry for more.”

—Victor Methos, bestselling author of The Secret Witness

“Robert Dugoni has done it again—created a twisty puzzle-box story with one of the most satisfying, jaw-dropping endings I’ve read in a long time. Part murder mystery, part courtroom drama, and part character study of fascinating chess prodigy turned defense attorney Keera Duggan, Her Deadly Game will keep you reading late into the night.”

—Angie Kim, international bestselling author of Miracle Creek

“Twist-filled.…John Grisham fans will be pleased.” —Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Amazon Charts bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite series, which has sold more than eight million books worldwide.

He is also the author of the bestselling Charles Jenkins series; the bestselling David Sloane series; the stand-alone novels The 7th Canon, Damage Control, The World Played Chess, and The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, Suspense Magazine’s 2018 Book of the Year, for which Dugoni won an AudioFile Earphones Award for narration; and the nonfiction exposé The Cyanide Canary, a Washington Post best book of the year.

He is the recipient of the Nancy Pearl Book Award for fiction and a three-time winner of the Friends of Mystery Spotted Owl Award for best novel set in the Pacific Northwest. He is a two-time finalist for the Thriller Awards and the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, as well as a finalist for the Silver Falchion Award for mystery and the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Awards. His books are sold in more than twenty-five countries and have been translated into more than two dozen languages. Visit his website at







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