Mary Magruder Katz is not your garden variety attorney. Half Southern Baptist, half Jewish, with a love life as fiery as the South Florida sun and a penchant for getting herself into trouble, this feisty female protagonist is the title character in a series of mystery novels by Miami judge-turned-writer Barbara Levenson. The Mary Magruder Katz Mysteries give readers an insider’s view of the legal system while taking them on a suspense filled romp through the city that has become Levenson’s adopted home. Levenson describes her books as “Nancy Drew for grown-ups.”
An Ohio native, Levenson graduated cum laude from the University of Miami’s Law School and began her legal career as a prosecutor. She later started her own law firm focused on criminal defense and civil rights litigation. In 1992, Levenson was elected to a judgeship in the Miami-Dade circuit court. “I’d always loved writing, but with my job, I never had the time to do anything other than legal writing,” she says. “I started writing fiction as a retirement hobby. I had lots of ideas from my time in court. Instead of focusing on the facts of a case, I began writing about the people. The rest was simple.” She signed up for a writing course at Miami-Dade College and was “so intrigued” that she took another. Her instructor was impressed with her work and suggested she apply for a summer program in Ohio. Her manuscript was accepted, and after completing the program, she came home and began writing in earnest. A year later, her first novel, Fatal February, was published, and Mary Magruder Katz was born.
Fatal February (2009) started as a series of short stories based on Levenson’s experiences in the courtroom. “Mary is a composite of many of the women attorneys I knew,” Levenson explains. “I hope their viewpoint comes through to the readers.” Mary is also a product of Miami: unpredictable, edgy, passionate and energetic. In Fatal February, her life is turned upside-down when a minor traffic accident introduces her to Carlos Martin, a handsome Latin real estate developer. Her love affair with Carlos causes her to break her engagement, lose her job with her former fiancé’s prestigious law firm and start her own law practice. Soon Mary finds herself defending the prime suspect in a high-profile Miami murder case. The Library Journal praised Fatal February as “A fun debut, full of humor and joie de vivre.”
Mary’s exploits continue in Justice in June where she becomes entangled in three cases: two personally connected to Carlos and one that puts her life in danger as she investigates wrongdoing in Miami courts.
Outrageous October, the third book in the series takes place in Vermont. Mary leaves Miami after a nasty break-up with Carlos and heads for the tranquility of a small Vermont town. Unfortunately, an unsolved murder pulls Mary into a web of intrigue. A mysterious intruder, an abducted college co-ed, a complicated relationship with a handsome young attorney and a feud between neighbors that ends in homicide soon make Mary long for the comparative peace of Miami. Levenson spends summers and fall in Quechee, Vermont. “This book was written to satisfy my Northern New England friends who wanted a book of their own.
Neurotic November was launched in November, 2014 at an amazing launch party at Books and Books in Coral Gables. This beautiful independent book store was filled with a standing room only crowd and a sell-out of books. Readers were happy to find Mary returning to Miami in a whirlwind of new cases. The plot involves the murder of a friend’s ex-husband, and a University of Miami football player accused of sexual battery on an underage girl. Levenson hopes Mary’s exploits will entertain her readers and leave them feeling like they’ve vacationed in Miami. “Miami is so much more than South Beach,” she says. “It’s an exciting city with the diversity that adds so much to life. But it’s also filled with people who live like people everywhere. They work, go to school, raise kids. They just do it in better weather.”
This summer finds Levenson in the midst of writing Dangerous December that will be available in the winter of 2016. Of course, there are murders, and a Medicare fraud case, among other chaotic happenings. Mary and Carlos’s hot romance rises to new levels. The Thanksgiving recipes that accompanied Neurotic November were such a hit that Dangerous December will include Christmas and Chanukah recipe surprises. Look for family fireworks by New Year’s Eve.
When asked about the future for Barbara Levenson, she confided that she is working on a serious novel about the lives of four women and one Cuban rafter. Stay tuned!
For more about Barbara Levenson, visit her website at www.barbaralevenson.com.