Moment of Truth
begins with what appears to be an open-and-shut case. Jack Newlin, a wealthy attorney with one of the most influential law firms in Philadelphia, killed his wife in a moment of drunken passion, stabbing her repeatedly when she announced she wanted a divorce. Or at least that is what he is claiming to the police.
The fact is, Jack is framing himself because he fears his wife's murder was his daughter's crime of passion. Sixteen-year-old Paige Newlin is a successful model whose relationship with her manager-mother had been famously rocky. To make sure that he's convicted, Jack hires rookie lawyer Mary DiNunzio to defend him. But Mary doesn't buy Jack's story, and neither does the senior detective on the case. In a fascinating turn on the usual courtroom tale, then, Jack struggles to maintain his false story of guilt while his lawyer and the police struggle to prove him innocent. Meanwhile, Mary wrestles with both her uncertainty as a lawyer and with her attraction for her client.
Lisa Scottoline, often identified as the "female John Grisham," has led the pack of female authors in the legal thriller genre, winning an Edgar for her second novel, Final Appeal. Moment of Truth does have moments that don't, in fact, ring true. Why is Jack Newlin so quick to forgive his daughter when he thinks she's killed her own mother? And if he's so concerned with her welfare, why did he absent himself from her upbringing? But it's nonetheless interesting for its innovative plot conceit and its examination of high-profile murder trials. If one is able to overlook the problems with Newlin's motivation, the story Scottoline weaves is a compelling one, and her heroine, Mary, is an enjoyable, self-doubting twist on the super-lawyer at the center of most legal thrillers. --Patrick O'Kelley
From Publishers Weekly
A bullet-proof premise distinguishes this expert crime thriller from Scottoline (Mistaken Identity): handsome, successful estates lawyer Jack Newlin frames himself for the murder of his heiress wife in order to shield the real killer, their 16-year-old daughter, Paige. It doesn't matter to Jack that Philadelphia's hyper D.A., Dwight Davis, wants the death penaltyAJack is determined to protect his girl, a legally emancipated model who dabbles in crystal meth despite her recently discovered pregnancy. But not everyone is buying Jack's eager confession. Something about his story bothers veteran detective Reginald Brinkley, who's convinced that the traces of physical evidence at the murder scene point to Paige, and possibly to her preppy boyfriend, Trevor. And Mary DiNunzio, the young lawyer Jack hires for her presumed inexperience, finds herself Jack's "worst enemy" as she, too, begins focusing on the jittery teenager. Scottoline cuts a few corners: it's implausible that Mary, schooled only in "the law according to Steven Bochco," would be running such a big case unsupervised, or that this lapsed Catholic with hardwired guilt would allow herself to represent Paige while fighting for Jack, on whom she's developed an unprofessional crush. But Mary is a most appealing crusader, with a highly developed working-class wit ("she struck Mary instantly as the kind of girl for whom the delicate cycle was invented"). Sharp, funny characters, crafty plot twists, and a flavorful depiction of high- and lower-middle Philadelphia society will keep readers riveted to this tense, often mischievous page-turner. Agent, Molly Friedrich. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.