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