Peak, John A.
PEAK, John A.
PERSONAL: Married Maggie Durham; children: three daughters. Education: University of Nebraska, graduated, 1967; University of Colorado School of Law, graduated, 1969. Hobbies and other interests: Riding horses.
CAREER: Lawyer and mystery novelist. Colorado Court of Appeals, clerk for Justice William F. Dwyer; Office of the City Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco, CA, defense attorney, beginning 1980; private legal practice, Glendale, CA, 1993—. Military service: U.S. Air Force, Judge Advocate General officer in Shreveport, LA.
Spare Change, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.
Blood Relations, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Mortal Judgments, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
M and M, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2002.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A novel about a young Confederate soldier.
SIDELIGHTS: As a medical malpractice attorney with a background in criminal law, John A. Peak interacts daily with attorneys, police officers, and physicians—the kind of characters who populate his mystery novels. Peak's first novel, Spare Change, features Jeff Talbot, an alcoholic Louisiana trial attorney who hopes to resuscitate his failed career by moving to San Francisco. His first night in the city is spent in a public park, sharing a sleeping bag with Colleen, another alcoholic. In the morning, Jeff finds that Colleen has been murdered. Colleen's sister, Katy, is the investigating officer. Jeff learns that Colleen had worked at a prominent law firm and had been slated to testify in a medical malpractice case against the son of Peter St. John, the firm's founding partner. Katy convinces Jeff to look for a solution to Colleen's murder by taking a job as a paralegal at the firm. As the narrative unfolds, links to a murdered senator, illicit drugs, and the illegal dumping of nuclear waste emerge, and Jeff himself becomes a target. The novel climaxes with a deadly gun battle at Peter's ranch. Further drama is added to the story by setting it against the backdrop of the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. While a Kirkus Reviews critic commented that "unfinished subplots and outrageous coincidences mar a story that begins well and features an entertaining prose style," a Publishers Weekly reviewer praised Spare Change, calling it a "smashing first novel."
In Peak's next novel, Blood Relations, which a Publishers Weekly critic called an example of "solid storytelling," Robert MacDonald is a sixty-four-year-old police sergeant in Martin, Texas, investigating the shooting death of his son, Terry, also a police officer. The coroner, Robert's fellow officers, and his one surviving son, Kevin, all believe that Terry committed suicide in the wake of an accusation that he caused the death of a young female protester, but Robert remains unconvinced. Still coming to terms with the loss of his wife to cancer two years earlier, Robert soon realizes that he risks losing another son when he and Kevin become the targets of a killer bent on revenge.
In Mortal Judgments, Peak tells the story of Dr. Arnold Jones, a surgeon accused of malpractice when a patient dies on his operating table. Dr. Jones turns to Vicki Shea, a former doctor turned malpractice attorney, to represent him. As the case unfolds, expert witnesses are killed and Dr. Jones and Vicki become targets. While a Publishers Weekly critic felt that "an overabundance of detail and a formulaic plot hinder Peak's third novel," other critics praised the book. Harriet Klausner, in a review on the BookBrowser Web site, noted, "John Peak has clearly climbed to new peaks with this compelling tale." Klausner called Mortal Judgments, "an enthralling legal-medical thriller that will elate fans of the sub-genre due to its strong cast." "Do yourself a favor: pick up Mortal Judgments," wrote David Pitt on the Under the Covers Web site. "And get comfortable, because once you start reading you won't move again until you're finished."
Vicki Shea returns in Peak's fourth novel, M and M. Since her last outing, Vicki has returned to medicine and is working as a resident in pediatric medicine at San Francisco General Hospital. When an abused baby is placed under Vicki's care at the hospital, she finds herself investigating a homicide and a child-smuggling ring. As the case escalates, Vicki and Inspector Tim Murphy become the target of mobsters and must flee to Vicki's father's ranch, not only to protect the smuggled children, but to protect themselves as well. A Publishers Weekly contributor observed that Peak's strengths lie in a "sure sense of pace and clinical understatement," labeling it a "taut, well-told page-turner."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 1999, William Beatty, review of Mortal Judgments, p. 962, November 15, 2002, Eileen Hardy, review of M and M, p. 581.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 1994, review of Spare Change, p. 809; January 15, 1999, review of Mortal Judgments, p. 109; September 15, 2002, review of M and M, p. 1356.
Publishers Weekly, July 11, 1994, review of Spare Change, p. 67; July 7, 1997, review of Blood Relations, p. 54; January 11, 1999, review of Mortal Judgments, p. 54; November 4, 2002, review of M and M, p. 66.
BookBrowser Web site, http://www.bookbrowser.com (February 21, 1999), Harriet Klausner, review of Mortal Judgments.
John A. Peak Homepage, http://www.booktalk.com/JPeak/ (January 16, 2003), "John A. Peak."
Under the Covers Web site, http://www.silicom.com/~umanatee/ (February 25, 1999), David Pitt, review of Mortal Judgments.*