In the follow-up to Compton’s debut novel, Tell No Lies (2008), a formerly adulterous district attorney must defend himself in court when a 16-year-old girl wrongly accuses him of raping her.
Jack Hilliard thought he’d put the past behind him. It’s been four years since we last saw him, when he was elected St. Louis district attorney, cheated on his wife with fellow lawyer Jenny Dodson and got embroiled in a murder case as a result. But when he takes too long driving his son’s girlfriend, Celeste—who bears an uncanny resemblance to Jenny—home after she and his son come home drunk, he unwittingly opens a door to the events he’s been trying to forget. Although Jack parked by the side of the road for hours because Celeste insisted that her father would be angry if he found out she’d been drinking, Celeste accuses Jack of raping her. The accusation and resulting charges, along with Jenny’s mysterious reappearance, throw a wrench in Jack’s life. His wife grows distant, his son won’t talk to him, and he can’t quite bring himself to stay away from Jenny, even if only to help her try to figure out who has been sending her threatening letters. Nor can he figure out why Celeste is accusing him of something he didn’t do, though he suspects her father has been abusing her. Compton, a former lawyer with a sharp legal eye, is tuned into the moral ambiguities that can arise in a prosecution. Her strongest writing comes in the riveting courtroom scenes, and her understanding of her characters is equally nuanced. Readers will have a hard time not rooting for Jack, a compelling if sometimes frustrating man whose innocence is never in doubt, though his adeptness at lying to himself about his own morality and what he really wants with Jenny isn’t particularly admirable or attractive. Aside from an unrealistic climax that takes Compton away from her strengths, the absorbing story makes for a worthy sequel.
An engaging legal thriller that brings to mind the intelligence and ambiguity of The Good Wife.