An attorney offers a confession of sorts to a Manhattan socialite concerning a murder trial in which he was the teen defendant in this mystery/drama.
At his regular drinking hole, lawyer David Stillman has a chance encounter with Michaela Fitzgerald. The socialite is worried she may soon go to jail for a probation violation, having served a few years in prison for her involvement in a drug case. But then David starts divulging details about his startling past to Michaela after she notes his apparent melancholy. Fifteen years ago, when David was 15, he and his friend Barney Jenson were on trial for murder. The boys, along with peers Carl and Teddy, were unmitigated delinquents, primarily immersed in vandalism. While they couldn’t always evade the law, they were successful enough in their criminal endeavors to be known around town as hellions. As David inches his tale toward the murder that prompted his and Barney’s arrests, he also tells Michaela of his recent client, Tracey Chisholm. Her case parallels David’s own—15-year-old Tracey faces a murder charge. But what really shakes David is the prosecutor in Tracey’s case, Trotter Daniels, the same lawyer who tried convicting him and Barney of murder. Completing his confession to Michaela will lead to a revelation, but not necessarily one David may anticipate. Despite knowing some of the trials’ outcomes (David clearly isn’t in prison), Leibig’s (Almost Mortal, 2016, etc.) lucid novel is rife with mystery. For one, David’s chronological flashback doesn’t reach the murder for some time, while the result of Tracey’s trial is likewise not immediately revealed. The engrossing, hard-edged story isn’t about mere teen mischief but rather youngsters on a dangerous path (“We were thirteen, really bored, and not scared enough”). Daniels even argues the teens’ acts were hate crimes, as a handful of victims were minorities. Leibig’s complex tale offers no easy answers: The justice system affects the boys, including Carl and Teddy, in different ways. Still, the ending delivers surprises (even for David) and a fair amount of resolution.
Proof that a legal case can be riveting long after the trial is over.