Death of a Rancher's Daughter

#2 In The Lady Lawyer Mysteries

Fiction - Crime
416 Pages
Reviewed on 01/17/2021
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Susan P. Baker is the author of nine law-related novels and two nonfiction books. A retired Texas judge, she makes her home in Galveston. She has two children and eight grandchildren. She's a world traveler and has lived in Japan and Mexico.
Having practiced law for 9 years and served on the bench for 12, Death of a Rancher's Daughter reflects her experiences as a litigator and a judge.
You may contact her at

    Book Review

Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers' Favorite

Death of a Rancher's Daughter: #2 In The Lady Lawyer Mysteries by Susan P. Baker is an intriguing legal mystery that will keep you in suspense until the end. This second offering in the series has lawyer-of-a-certain-age Sandra Salinsky representing a Latina who allegedly shot the rancher's daughter, a twin. This gripping scenario takes place in Texas Hill County in a small town, revealing racism and murder, and culminates in a jury trial that will satisfy legal drama fans everywhere. Along with her attorney/mother, Sandra watches the wheels of white privilege turn.

Baker has formulated the perfectly satisfying legal suspense novel in this one. You'll appreciate the author's legal prowess, and there is a reason for that: Baker is a retired Texas judge, which lends an impressive realism to the story you don't find with some other crime dramas. I really enjoy the characters of Sandra and her mother--a unique criminal defense team to say the least, and a combination that is fresh and inviting. Their clashes seem natural. Melinda is a great character as well, as are the others that enter the picture, especially the sympathetic defendant, Rufina.

The plot that the author has built is gripping from the beginning, and you may think you have things figured out and know how the story will play out, but there are some surprises. I like how the themes of racism and phobias are used, which definitely infiltrates the legal system as well as any other. The plot is well-paced and inviting, the characters and situations convincing, and you get the feeling this author really enjoys entertaining you from a legal but also a personal aspect. If you're up for a bumpy ride through a gritty Texas murder trial, buckle your seatbelts and check out Death of a Rancher's Daughter by Susan P. Baker.

Grace Masso

Death of a Rancher's Daughter is the second book in The Lady Lawyer Mysteries by Susan P. Baker, a stunning tale of murder and mystery with a strong historical and cultural setting. Lawyer Sandra Salinsky is depressed and she wallows in self-pity, literally burned out. She wants a change and has made plans to leave her job and accept a new offer in a neighboring town. But she is shocked when she goes to break the news to Erma who has even more bitter news for her: Katy Jo Schindler is dead, murdered. She is one of the twin daughters of BJ Schindler, and what is more disturbing is that BJ’s best friend, Rufina Barboza, is accused of the murder. Now, Sandra finds herself defending Rufina in court. The rancher believes in the innocence of her best friend, but there might be more to the case than the actual crime. Can Sandra bring home a “Not Guilty” verdict for Rufina?

The story is set in a small town in Texas Hill County and the author does a wonderful job in exploring the physical and climatic elements of the setting, like the description of winter. The author does a wonderful job in writing the setting and in exploring the cultural and racial differences between the Whites and Hispanics of the place. The defendant in a murder case is a Mexican-American woman raised on a ranch and accused of the death of a rancher’s daughter, and that alone is enough for the District Attorney to make her pay for even being Hispanic. The idea of white privilege is brilliantly conveyed in the narrative, a theme that is very relevant to contemporary American readers. The opening of the story is explosive, and I was pulled in by the strong writing, the irresistible premise, and the realism that is written into the characters. The drama greets the reader right off the bat and grows in intensity as the plot moves forward. Death of a Rancher's Daughter is a fast-paced, emotionally engaging, and entertaining crime mystery and legal thriller that kept me reading through the night. The novel brings a lot of entertainment to readers while exploring sensitive and pertinent cultural and legal themes.

Romuald Dzemo

Death of a Rancher's Daughter is the second book in The Lady Lawyer Mysteries series by Susan P. Baker, a crime thriller with strong cultural underpinnings. One of the twin daughters of BJ Schindler, a rancher, is murdered, and her best friend, a small Mexican woman with whom she has grown up, is accused of the crime. BJ believes in Rufina Barboza’s innocence, so she reaches out to Erma to get a good lawyer for her. Sandra Salinsky has been looking forward to a change of life and environment. She is a lawyer who has a lot to deal with, including her depression. While she is hesitant about taking the job and changing her plans to move to a new town and start a new job, she accepts the job. But can she prove the innocence of Rufina in a Texas Hill Country courtroom where racial prejudice against the Hispanic people is ubiquitous?

This is a well-crafted, realistic story that features racism, crime, the bonds of friendship, and family. The murder of Katy Jo is at the center of the plot, a premise that pulls the reader in immediately where a bereaved woman is strongly attached to the person accused of murdering her daughter. The characters are well-developed, and from the initial interactions between Sandra and Erma, through the day-to-day lifestyle of the characters, to building a defense, to the courtroom drama, the links between the characters are strongly established. This author has a gift for creating characters that readers can relate to and an emotional conflict that dominates the narrative. Death of a Rancher's Daughter features a strong cultural setting, a deftly written plot, and scenes that are dramatic and moving. The characters are deeply and genuinely flawed, especially Sandra, and readers can’t help but root for them as they follow their development through the intricate plot.