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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.

Pub Date: Nov. 25th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-14-219673-1
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Plume
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2014


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