Slaughter, Karin. “False Witness: A Novel” , Harper, 2021.
Leigh Collier is an up-and-coming defense attorney at a prestigious law firm in Atlanta who has worked hard to build a normal life. She will do anything for her sixteen-year-old daughter Maddy, and is able to successfully co-parent through a pandemic after an separating from her husband Walter. However, Leigh’s ordinary life hides a childhood “tarnished by secrets, broken by betrayal, and ultimately destroyed by a brutal act of violence.”
One Sunday night while she is at her daughter’s school play, Leigh gets a call from one of the partners who wants her to defend a wealthy man accused of several counts of rape. Though wary of the case, she doesn’t have much choice if she wants to keep her job. When she meets the accused, she realizes that it’s no coincidence that he’s specifically asked for her to represent him. She knows him and he knows her and he may know what happened over twenty years ago, and why Leigh has avoided her past for twenty years.
Leigh realizes that she has a lot more to lose than this case. The only person who can help is her younger, estranged sister Callie and she does not want to drag into this after all they’ve been through. But she has no choice…
Karin Slaughter’s novel is set on the backdrop of contemporary American social and political issues. We the impact of the pandemic and the country’s drug crisis in her portrayal of 37 year old heroin addict, Callie, a child gymnast and cheerleader who deals with a broken neck, constant back pain and sexually assault by a Buddy Waleski, a pedophile for whom she minded his 10 year old son, Trevor.
Callie buried the past through using drugs; Leigh is trapped in a cycle of self-sabotage and guilt. Now, 20 years later, Leigh is a defense attorney, separated from her beloved husband, Walter, and missing her daughter who is staying with her husband. Leigh, her family, and Callie are to find themselves in danger when Leigh finds herself representing wealthy sexual predator, a rapist client, 33 year old car salesman and manipulative psychopath, Andrew Tenant, who turns out to be a grown up Trevor intent on destroying all their lives, knowing what happened to his father and now facing kidnap and sexual assault charges.
Slaughter’s characters are beautifully drawn and larger than life. Through them she gives a damning indictment of male behavior when it comes to young girls and women, the sense of entitlement, the daily sexual harassment, stalking, the pedophiles, child abuse, brutal sexual assaults, domestic violence, and murder.