Audit by Michelle Cornish - Protesters are zealous and business managers are equally committed on New Year’s at the headquarters of Prairie Pipeline Co. (PPC) which is building of the Rocky Mountain Pipeline about 25 km south of Calgary. Controller, Jim Dunn, is getting ready for the annual financial statement audit. When he steps outside to complain to the protesters he is struck during a confrontation and dies as protesters panic.
Cynthia Webber is articling at Darlington and Associates, an international accounting firm in Calgary. She is recently widowed with a 4 year old son, Luke. She is the manager of the firm audit team for PPC.
With the Calgary economy at full throttle she is working on New Year’s Day to keep up with the work. She finds Dunn’s body during a physical inventory of pipe.
Though she is sent into shock by the discovery of the body and needs a brief hospital stay Cynthia’s hard driving audit supervisor, David Jerew, expects her back at work the next day and to finish the audit on schedule.
When he threatens not to disclose to the police an earring was found on the body she is scared and intimidated. She had already been puzzled at PPC when Gord James, the CFO at PPC, claimed to the police he had found the body. Startled she had not disagreed.
I found it a distraction when Cynthia’s deceased husband, Jason, starts a conversation with her on the fiduciary duty of accountants to the general public to be truthful.
Cynthia meets with Detective Randy Bain of Calgary Police Services. She is honest contradicting Gord and disregarding David’s threat. He fires her that afternoon.
The absence of reasoning and any process within the firm did not feel right.
Blackmail letters written by Dunn come to light.
And if there is a feminine murder weapon it is the heel protector for spike heels suspected here. (For male readers the protectors allow women to walk on “grass, grates and gravel”.)
Parts of the plot were dramatic. However, the action veered too often from the credible to the incredible to, unfortunately well past the incredible. The climax left me shaking my head. There were other issues beyond the plotting.
As an example, much of the involvement with law and lawyers is not accurate starting with Miranda rights being American. Rights to counsel in Canada are under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The process of bail was wrong..
The dialogue did not quite work at times. Cornish was at her best in family and personal scenes. How Cynthia is appreciative that her firm has daycare inside its office building and she can take the elevator down to the daycare for quick visits during the day. Later she has a shopping date with her best friend, Linda. As she writes more I expect her dialogue will improve.
I believe there was potential to have Cynthia become a character like Joanne Kilbourn in the books by Gail Bowen. There is a framework of friends and family around Cynthia that could be enhanced.
The best legal fiction has legal issues and/or cases at the heart of the story. I wish Cornish had put accounting at the core of Murder Audit instead of the greater emphasis on the environmental issues. As a former CPA she has the background to focus a plot around accounting. However, there are so many weaknesses in writing and plotting to be improved by Cornish. Accountants as action heroes work no better in crime fiction than lawyers as action heroes.