In this fictionalized account of the Amanda Knox case, journalist Darnton asks the question any parent would dread: Is my child capable of murder?
Although certainly inspired by the
Knox trial, Darnton focuses more on the emotional landscape—the relationship
between mother and daughter, how a child’s accomplishment becomes the parent’s.
On the surface, Jennifer Lewis seems that titular perfect mother, and the proof
is in Emma, the kind of teenager who volunteers, makes good grades and gets
into Princeton. Now on her junior year in Spain, Emma calls home with the
shocking news that a man tried to rape her and has been killed. Jennifer flies
to Seville, but her reconciliation with Emma is surprisingly rocky. Released
after intensive questioning (she claims that after she screamed for help, a
stranger came into her apartment, killed the rapist and fled), Emma is hostile
and uncommunicative. Their high-priced Spanish lawyer and private detective
Roberto Ortiz suggest more cooperation—according to Spanish law, if the police
simply charge her with a crime, she can wait up to four years in prison before
a trial even begins, and as it stands, the police don’t believe her story. And
neither does Emma’s father, Mark, a corporate lawyer, though Jennifer is
convinced her daughter would never lie. As Jennifer becomes angry at Mark for
his disloyalty, she becomes close with Roberto, who offers just the
reassurances (she really is a good mother) that Jennifer needs to hear. When
Emma’s story begins to fall apart—her boyfriend, Paco, is an ex-con drug
dealer, the “rapist” a good boy from an affluent family, and her own kitchen
knife is the murder weapon—Jennifer considers other aspects of her daughter’s
past, including lying, cheating and stealing, that reveal more than she can
admit about her daughter and herself.
A fast-paced thriller with the kind of emotional
impact that transcends a simple whodunit.