For the CNN.com version click on here: Moment of Truth Review
A fresh take on the legal eagle
'Moment of Truth' by Lisa
March 29, 2000
Web posted at: 3:56 p.m. EST (2056 GMT)
By Reviewer Robert Nebel
Special to CNN Interactive
(CNN) -- The legal thriller has meant big
business to publishing houses for the
past decade. Legal
mavens-turned-author like John
Grisham and Scott Turow have fueled
interest with juicy works like "The
Firm" and "Presumed Innocent."
Former corporate attorney Lisa
Scottoline brings a female perspective to
this male-dominated field with her
seventh novel, "Moment of Truth"
"Moment of Truth" has all the elements of a page-turner. Scottoline's writing is
direct, honest and entertaining and doesn't get bogged down in legalese.
Exposing the seamy side of high society
The plot paints a fascinating picture of elite life in
Philadelphia gone bad.
For reasons that eventually become apparent, Jack
Newlin, a successful attorney, frames himself for
the murder of his wife, Honor, in their tony Philly
home. To make sure his story sticks, Newlin not
only confesses to the crime, but also hires inexperienced lawyer Mary DiNunzio
to defend him.
The local media latch on to the high-profile case, and the overblown coverage
soon turns the City of Brotherly Love against Newlin. Adding to the frenzy,
Assistant District Attorney Dwight Davis and the political heavyweights in city
government want a conviction to display their law enforcement prowess.
Author Scottoline puts her finger on the sad pulse of urban America, revealing a
high society unconcerned about the masses and a complacent city government
constantly trying to woo the electorate.
An unconventional hero
The refreshing obstacle to this realistic struggle in "Moment of Truth" is
something rarely seen in pop culture, a female hero in the person of Mary
Mary works to find the truth in a murder scandal that has all the ingredients for a
movie of the week: seedy lawyers, complacent cops, and spoiled rich kids. In
her quest she uncovers a side of Philadelphia society that thrives on lies and
We learn how Jack Newlin's murdered wife Honor was a controlling, alcoholic
mother who pushed her daughter Paige into modeling. As a result, Paige has
become a self-absorbed 16-year-old who has abandoned her parents' home to
live in a ritzy apartment.
Scottoline doesn't shy away from exposing the unsavory side of lawyering,
either. Her observations find a voice in the character of Marc Videon, Honor
Newlin's divorce attorney.
"The rich retain power and money. The poor try to get it and lose. You even up
the odds, and I keep them out of whack, the way my clients want them," Videon
bluntly tells Assistant District Attorney Davis.
Scottoline keeps the plot moving while making these incisive observations. She
creates a cast of realistic, three-dimensional characters who jump off the pages.
Scottoline also successfully shows how one woman can tear down the walls of
power, greed and corruption with sheer will and determination. She offers a
female perspective into the legal world without injecting a stereotypical feminist
Some of Scottoline's characters hold conservative personal and political views,
perhaps inspired by the author's own upbringing.
"Moment of Truth" is an entertaining and refreshing legal thriller. But a question
lingers after reading it: Is Mary DiNunzio Scottoline's alter-ego? That, of course,
remains a mystery.
Robert Nebel is a video editor at CNN. He is also an Atlanta-based freelance writer
who specializes in theater, film and book reviews.