by Heather | 1/20/2014
" Anna Curtis is an an assistant U.S. attorney working in Washington D.C. As a prosecutor with a strong sense of ethics, Anna is initially empowered and hopeful when she gets involved in the domestic abuse case of Laprea Johnson. Laprea has been beaten by her boyfriend D'marco for what she says is the last time, but when she recants her testimony during her trial, Anna is left angry and bewildered. Cowed by her experience in court, Anna is at first cold when the defendant's attorney, Nick Wagner, takes an interest in her. Though she and Nick have attended the same university, Anna doesn't know Nick personally and the only information she has about him is that he is attractive and he is representing Laprea's attacker. When Nick and Anna start a romance, things seem to be going very smoothly until the day there's another confrontation between D'marco and Laprea, and Laprea ends up dead. Anna of course feels responsible for Laprea's fate and immediately breaks things off with Nick, who she can't forgive for defending D'marco and eventually allowing him to regain the freedom to kill Leprea. Now Anna has been pulled into the investigation of Laprea's murder and been assigned to work with Jack Bailey, a tough criminal prosecutor who also works for the U.S. Attorney's office. But when Anna and Jack begin to uncover clues that may prove D'marco is innocent, the guilt begins to point in some very incongruous and unexpected places. Both fast paced and surprising, Allison Leotta delivers a unique crime thriller that will keep its readers guessing all the way to the very last page.
I'm not a big reader of the crime thriller genre, and usually when approached for a review of one of these books, I have to decline. My problems stem from the fact that a lot of these books feel very homogenized. When I do end up getting invested in them, it seems like they have all the same story elements, character archetypes and twists that I have come to negatively associate with this particular genre. Rarely do I find something new and unexpected, and when I do venture out and read one of these books on my own, I rely heavily on the perceptions and opinions of other bloggers whom I respect. So I'll have to be honest when I say I wasn't expecting much of this book. Now, I didn't read a lot about it and knew only the barest information when I went into it. After an intense opening section, I began to plow right through its pages and wound up being excited that I had found something new and refreshing in this genre that I could really appreciate. I think Leotta ended up pulling off a one of a kind story within these pages, and it's one that earned my esteem.
Anna Curtis was a wonderful protagonist. Though she has high standards and ideals, she's very human and has some self-esteem issues when it comes to her work. Part of my ability to bond with Anna came from the fact that she was so human, and that while she could be very tough, there was an underlying sensitivity and compassion in her that left her struggling at times. I wouldn't exactly call her troubled, but she was conflicted, and as the story moved forward, these conflicts come into play not only in her budding relationship with Nick, but in her protective instincts towards Laprea. She grew throughout this story, but a lot of the time it was uncomfortable growth spurred on by the situations she was caught up in. She never became so hard-boiled that she allowed the suffering of her client or the case itself to become something that she looked upon with jaded eyes, which I think is kind of rare. I think the thing I admired most about Anna was her persistence and her willingness to go to great lengths to find the justice that Laprea deserved, not matter what it cost her personally.
I had a bit of a hard time with Anna's decision to start a relationship with Nick, and I think she did too. Caught up in a bevy of romantic feelings, I think Anna let her guard down and let Nick in hoping their relationship might be hidden from those who could make obvious waves for the couple. I didn't exactly like Nick, or trust him for that matter, and felt that although he treated Anna with a lot of respect and love that there was something utterly smarmy about him. I think he was a little ostentatious in his relationship with Anna, and truly never thought of the repercussions that dating her might result for them both. I was a little thrilled when things didn't work out for them, but Nick was very persistent and worked desperately to not let Anna slip through his fingers. That annoyed me. I wanted him to realize the kind of jeopardy he was putting her career into, but he never did, and it seemed like he turned a blind eye to a lot of rational and level-headed behavior. In some ways there were stark similarities between Nick and Anna's relationship and the relationship between Laprea and D'marco, but they weren't immediately obvious and it took some real cogitation to work out the ways in which the situations were similar and the ways in which they were different.
The case between Laprea and D'marco was one that was fraught with intrigue and it seemed to be so clear for most of the book. There was never a doubt in my mind that D'marco had killed the woman, but in a stunning reversal, all that the reader knows to be true is flipped on its head and thrown out the window. The clues, motive and storyline said one thing, but as more and more is revealed, it's clear that D'marco is not what we first think he is. I thought Leotta did a great job with this reversal. She made D'marco just slimy and perverse enough to do something like this, and then revealed that there was more to this picture than met the eye. The relationship between Laprea and D'marco was something that was tense with emotion, regret and jealousy, and even when it was clear to me that D'marco was a horrible human being, it was also clear that there was no ultimate black and white where these two people were concerned. The conclusion of the book literally had me sitting rigid in my seat and ingesting the words compulsively, as darker figures than D'marco came tumbling out of the shadows and into the light. Though D'marco might have been capable of the murder, I questioned his innocence all the way throughout the story and came to conclude that he played a mighty part in this drama.
With a fast paced plot and characters that are so recognizably flawed and human, Leotta had me in the palm of her hand throughout the whole story. Not only is this a suspense thriller, it also asks a lot of important questions about abuse and the role a victim plays when she consistently refuses to prosecute her attacker. It asks questions about the sticky ethical situations that those representing these cases can get into, and it had unexpected dashes of romance in all the right places. This would be a great read for a book group to discuss and disseminate, and I have to say that not only did I have a great time with it, it did a lot to eliminate my prejudices towards this genre in general. A highly suspenseful and original read. Recommended. "