Pedestrian debut thriller about a rape victim who tries her assailant in court.
Chloe Larson is a law student on Long Island in 1988, and outside her apartment, a man watches her every move, including her hot trysts with a boyfriend. One stormy night, the watcher breaks into her apartment, rapes her, then brutally carves her up with a serrated blade. She barely survives. So far, so familiar—and so flat, with Hoffman laying on the clichés and brand names as description. Then comes the first of many twists. It’s September 2000 and Miami state attorney C.J. Townsend faces defendant William Bantling, who may be “Cupid,” a serial killer who rapes his victims, then cuts out their hearts. C.J. spots a scar on Bantling’s arm and crumbles: he’s the man who raped her when she was Chloe Larson, before she altered her identity and fled Long Island. C.J. decides to nail this vermin and bends the law by hiding this part of her past, even from law enforcement agent Dominick Falconetti, with whom she becomes romantically involved. Hoffman adds a modicum of suspense by throwing several roadblocks in the way of C.J.’s quest for retribution. The FBI wants to usurp the case. The defense attorney has evidence that could derail it. And Bantling slowly realizes C.J. is Chloe. (The tired and offensive notion that Bantling may be a frustrated, woman-hating homosexual comes up, but is wisely scrapped—as the pointless and gratuitous homophobic thoughts of one of the investigators should have been.) C.J. lands her case, but learns she may have convicted the wrong man. In a burst of last-act plotting, Hoffman lets matters unravel, then provides a satisfying tie-up.
Although criminal attorney Hoffman devises an interesting premise and springs some surprises, her flat prose fails to lift her work above the ordinary.