Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Something happened to little girls that grew up watching their mothers being hit... It was a peculiar law of attraction."

Law of Attraction: A Novel
by Allison Leotta

Until reading Allison Leotta's novel, Law of Attraction, I'd forgotten just how much I enjoy legal thrillers. This debut is a pleasure from start to finish. The central character is Anna Curtis, a freshly-minted Assistant U. S. Attorney. Anna prosecutes misdemeanor domestic violence cases, and as the novel opens we witness the Laprea Johnson case from the first intake. Anna's opposing counsel for the trial is an old law school pal, Nick Wagner. Despite a strong attraction, Anna knows that she can't get involved with a public defender--and certainly not one she's up against! But after the unsatisfactory conclusion of the Johnson case, Anna and Nick's relationship changes. And it changes once more when they find themselves on opposing sides of the Johnson case for a second time.

While it is no doubt annoying for a novelist to be compared to her fictional creation, it is clear that Allison and Anna share more than a hair color. Allison Leotta also graduated Harvard Law and became an AUSA in Washington, DC. Her intimate familiarity with Anna's world really shows. She is unquestionably strongest when writing from Anna's POV, and somewhat weaker when channeling her inner city characters. At one point one of them claims, "All due respect, Ms. Curtis, but you don't know my life." `Nuff said. Still, Leotta manages to create some interesting and layered characters.

For a novice novelist, she does an excellent job with exposition, and really explains the ins and outs of what prosecutors are up against. The prose and dialogue are strong as well. It's not that the writing is particularly beautiful, but it isn't clunky either. It's just easy reading without being dumb. The pages fly by and there's a welcome vein of humor throughout the book to relieve the dark subject matter.

With any mystery or thriller, it's really the plot that makes or breaks the story. I basically figured the whole thing out about halfway through the novel. (I'm clever like that.) When, 50 pages later, the protagonist was thinking along the same lines as me, I realized that perhaps the novelist was more clever than I had given her credit for and had tossed a few red herrings into the mix. In the end, I did get some of it right, but there were a heck of a lot of surprises along the way. This is a fast-paced book, and if somehow the mystery doesn't keep you completely riveted, there's a good chance the romantic aspect will. Things get a bit steamy.

While Law of Attraction isn't going to win any literary awards, it was a terrifically entertaining debut and was more than enough to satisfy me. This is an author to watch. I'm looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next!

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