When a wealthy Vancouver socialite is found in the matrimonial bed bound and dead from a gunshot wound, her husband, a wealthy entrepreneur is arrested and charged with her murder. For his defense he turns to Vancouver criminal lawyer Jilly Truitt, a 33 year old former foster kid, steered away from the wrong path thanks to a diligent social worker and the right foster parents. She runs a small boutique firm and has earned a reputation for successful criminal defense work, but even Jilly is surprised when the wealth and mysterious Vincent Trussardi retains her to defend him. Truitt toils building a defense for her client, against an adversarial, competitive, win-oriented veteran Crown prosecutor, while representing a client with a strange, almost Kafkaesque family. Although our protagonist has the support of a capable associate, an eager junior, a hard-boiled administrative assistant, a miracle working private investigator and a loving foster family, McLachlan still manages to portray Jilly Truitt as a loner taking on the whole world. Along the way she helps a young street addict who is a former client, and who becomes involved in the Trussardi case in unexpected ways.
The story-telling begins somewhat shakily and cliched in the first chapter, but quickly recovers as the tale movies from charge to trial, capturing the reader's interest, not only about the facts of the Trussardi case, but also into the lives of its key players. McLachlan is able to craft an atmosphere of suspense and mystery, writing in a winsome style that brings her characters to life in a manner that interests and engages the reader. She is able to inject humour at appropriate times, even poking fun at herself on one occasion, in reference to a portrait of the Chief Justice of Canada on display at the Vancouver Law Courts ("when you was young and looked good").
Lawyers, especially criminal lawyers, will nitpick at some aspects of this book (and wonder how the circumstantial evidence against Trussardi ever met the standard for charge approval). Still, in comparison to other courtroom fiction, this story is on par with those told by William Deverell or John Mortimer. In the end, Beverley McLachlan delivers likeable main characters with engaging stories, having the ability to confront challenge bravely, while still possessed of their humanity and human frailties. That's not too shabby for a first time novelist. McLachlan leaves the reader wanting more of the exploits of Jilly Truitt. I smell a sequel, even a series, and when one considers that it is coming from the sharp mind and clever imagination of such an experienced jurist, let's hope I'm right.