Routine legal thriller based on Picasso's maxim that art—in this case, a witness's damning testimony—is a lie that helps us realize the truth. Heartbreakingly beautiful Davilon "Davey" Alden, mother of four-year-old Julie, ruins a scandalous child molestation case against her estranged husband, millionaire construction magnate Joel Alden, when she admits under oath that the heinous deeds she—d ascribed to Joel really never occurred. She tells her court-appointed defender, former Chicago criminal lawyer Jack Brenner, that she dreamed up the charges against her husband to stop him before he could destroy Julie's life. Brenner, an embittered, childless divorcÇ, suffers also from mid-career burn-out. Against his better judgment, he decides not to accept Prosecutor Brad Holtzman's plea-bargain that would put Davey in jail for five years and give Joel custody of Julie. The trial stirs a predictable pot of small-town intrigue in Laffler County, Michigan, where Joel Alden's less-than-legal business affairs (including a landfill scam) directly affect the local economy. As an outsider, Brenner finds himself welcome only in philosophical conversations with a lakeside cottage neighbor and in the sexily evanescent embraces of social worker Judy Cusmano, both of whom feel that Davey is somehow innocent. While Joel's menacing sidekicks pressure Brenner to throw the case, Brenner discovers that Melanie, Joel's daughter from his first marriage, may have committed suicide because of Joel's incestuous advances—and that Davey, with whom Brenner is now romantically involved, is herself the victim of a sexually abusive father. When Melanie's horrific diary turns up, Brenner suppresses his doubts about his client and uses every cheap courtroom trick at Davey's trial to make the jury accept her act of perjury as a desperate wife's last resort. Juries are more interested in mercy than in justice? An astute premise from first-novelist (and circuit court judge) Latreille—who almost sinks the point with genre clichÇs (who needs another shrill, de-sexed female assistant prosecutor?).
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