Why would anyone want to frame themselves for a murder they did not
commit? And for a murder for which they would be a primary suspect,
in any event? This is the conundrum presented in MOMENT OF TRUTH,
the latest in a series of legal thrillers by Lisa Scottoline.
Scottoline, a Philadelphia trial attorney, draws on her courtroom
experience to paint interesting and complex pictures of how the
wheels of justice not only drag, but occasionally grind. In MOMENT
OF TRUTH, Attorney Jack Newlin arrives home to find his wife,
Honor, murdered. Newlin, believing that he knows what has occurred,
immediately begins framing himself for the murder. To make matters
worse, he hires inexperienced Mary DiNunzio to defend him. What
chance does DiNunzio have of defending a client who really doesn't
want to be vigorously defended against an experienced,
take-no-prisoners Assistant District Attorney who has never lost a
capital murder case? Well, quite a big one, actually. For what
DiNunzio lacks in experience she more than makes up for in
intelligence and tenaciousness. We learn, along with Mary and with
Jack, that things are not always how they seem.
Now, let me tell you this much ahead of time. Those of you who read
a lot of these mystery/procedural thrillers are going to think you
have this all figured out. Newlin thinks his daughter murdered his
wife. We know from the get go that this isn't true. You'll figure
out by page 30 or so who really did murder her. But you'll never
figure out why. And you'll never figure out who was behind it all.
And there really isn't any sleight of hand or misdirection here.
Scottoline plays fair.
One word of warning here. This is a book that you are going to read
for the plot, as opposed to the characterization. Mary DiNunzio is
unfortunately not interesting enough to be a main character in
MOMENT OF TRUTH. Almost everyone in here --- her client, her
family, the detectives, the D.A., even the victim (who is dead
throughout the entire book) --- is more interesting than poor Mary.
This misplaced focus is a little disconcerting, as this is a
well-paced book, and would have been a better one but for the fact
that it drags when Mary is in it and picks up when she is offpage
--- except, of course, for the climax. Other than for this minor
quibble, MOMENT OF TRUTH will be welcomed by Scottoline's fans in
particular and fans of mysteries in general.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011