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The Truth About the Devlins


The Truth About the Devlins

As a former attorney, #1 bestselling author Lisa Scottoline taught "Justice and Fiction," a course that she developed at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She also studied writing with the legendary Philip Roth. Like her creative mentor, she has delved into history, politics and family dysfunction with equal zeal. Her period pieces on Italy and World War II are masterworks of historical fiction. Now she has returned to the domestic thriller genre with her latest effort, THE TRUTH ABOUT THE DEVLINS.

TJ is in rehab and is called the “charming disappointment” of the Devlin family and its eponymous law firm. Demoted to investigator, he still can function as an important part of the family business. Even a stint in prison hasn’t successfully separated him from his place in the family hierarchy. He is a good investigator and is happy to make do with this position, even though it is not nearly what his father expected him to do after all his education and childhood prep for his life in the firm.

"THE TRUTH ABOUT THE DEVLINS is a romp with exacting amounts of soul and sabotage, surprise and success, that even the most jaded mystery reader will find it to be a jolt to his or her system."

However, TJ’s entire life pivots when his brother, John, announces that he has killed a client in self-defense after a fight that had something to do with embezzlement. When John admits this to TJ, they rush to where the accountant was left but find neither his body nor his car at the scene. And so begins an investigation the likes of which TJ has never seen or conducted before. As he unravels the mystery of that night, the man’s corpse and his vehicle are found in a very different location, and the Devlins become the victims of stalkers who clearly hope that the details of that night never reach the public. However, this is TJ’s chance to save his family, and save them he will.

Family dysfunction and life-threatening circumstances are the least of the variety of twists and turns with which Scottoline peppers this labyrinthine plot. The need to hold the business together, the ability to trust TJ with the investigation as he struggles with his addiction history, the opportunity to unearth but then rebury family skeletons --- all of these situations require a deft narrative framework and an intelligently masterful game setup.

Scottoline has her numerous abilities firing on all cylinders, including characterization and dialogue. She allows the novel to be told from TJ’s point of view, which sets the reader right inside the story, rushing alongside the man who is trying so hard to prove so much in so little time. TJ has to work fast, and it is indeed with the Benzedrine speed of an addict without the fuel itself. He must do what seems impossible without reverting to the old ways in which he would threaten the family dynamic. Following his maneuvers throughout the many strings he needs to cross in order to make a strong case keeps the reader engaged and the mystery confounding.

Addiction is a good start for a suspense novel, but giving that burden to TJ as he undertakes the most stressful job of his life makes the book both compelling and heart-wrenching. TJ is a rare character for a thriller --- someone who is so flawed yet so irresistible due to his charms and his desire to live a respectable life and do a good deed in order to achieve that kind of life. THE TRUTH ABOUT THE DEVLINS is a romp with exacting amounts of soul and sabotage, surprise and success, that even the most jaded mystery reader will find it to be a jolt to his or her system.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on March 29, 2024

The Truth About the Devlins
by Lisa Scottoline