First-time novelist Leotta follows a rookie federal prosecutor on the case of a lifetime in this thriller set against the backdrop of the Washington, D.C., court system.
The author, a federal sex-crimes prosecutor who hails from Michigan and has a Harvard law degree, pits her heroine, plucky Anna Curtis, a sex-crimes prosecutor who hails from Michigan and has a law degree from Harvard, against rich, bad-boy public defender Nick Wagner. Wagner, a handsome rake whose job defending poor clients is a type of penance for his father’s sins, sweeps Anna off her feet. The two share an Ivy League background, but they also have a case in common, and that case eventually leads them to go their separate ways. Nick’s client, D’marco Davis, has a bad habit of beating up his girlfriend, Laprea Johnson, but Nick’s slick defense always gets D’marco off. After lying on the stand to free D’marco one last time, Laprea turns up in a trash bag, dead after a beating witnessed by an elderly man. But while D’marco admits to the beating, he denies killing Laprea. Now he’s trying to get Anna to listen to him. Meanwhile, Anna is on board with D’marco’s prosecution, headed by the prosecutor’s homicide chief, a smooth African-American named Jack Bailey. Jack is the widowed father of a little girl and a lawyer with a reputation for chewing up the newbies assigned to him and spitting them out whole. Anna isn’t sure what Jack represents to her, but she knows she’s confused and that confusion turns to a whole different set of emotions following a harrowing series of events that puts Anna square in the center of a bull’s eye. The story is well paced and plotted, but Leotta tends to overexplain legal procedure and the D.C. geography. There are some silly moments, and the cringe-worthy dialogue between the defendant, the victim and the victim’s family nearly eclipses the action, but the second half of the book picks up the pace and holds the reader’s attention to the end.
A respectable debut from someone who clearly knows her business.