“False Witness,” by Karin Slaughter, focuses on contemporary America and its social and political issues such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the drug crisis, sexual abuse, domestic violence and how the justice system often fails victims. Although this book is a fast paced page-turner, it is not for the faint of heart. It is dark and vividly violent. The first chapter in particular made me cringe. I almost put it down, but I am glad I continued, the suspense kept me reading.
Leigh Coulton has worked hard to put her underprivileged past behind her and to achieve a normal life, which is all she's ever wanted. Leigh is a defense attorney for a prestigious law firm in Atlanta. She has a 16-year-old daughter, Maddy, who she adores. Leigh is separated from her husband Walter but she loves him.
Leigh has secrets that she has kept hidden for the past 20 years, but now, due to her new client, the past is raising its ugly head and her secrets may surface.
She’s been asked to represent a wealthy client who has been charged with rape and she only has a week to prepare. Leigh soon learns that her being chosen to represent him is no coincidence. The new client is Andrew Tenant, formerly known as Trevor Waleski.
Leigh and her sister Callie both babysat for Trevor, a 10-year-old boy, when they were young. Leigh knows if she doesn’t get Andrew acquitted she will lose everything and put her family in danger. She has no choice but to call on her estranged younger sister for help.
Callie’s life is the opposite of Leigh’s. She is a heroin addict and has been since she broke her neck during a cheer-leading stunt at 16. Callie was 14 when she started babysitting Trevor (Andrew). Trevor’s father Buddy groomed and then sexually and physically abused Callie for years. It is during one of Buddy’s beatings that Callie took a kitchen knife to his femoral artery in self-defense. Callie calls Leigh and they make Buddy disappear without a trace.
Years later Andrew (Trevor) is raping and beating women. He lets Leigh know that he is aware of what happened to his father 20 years ago and is threatening her family if she doesn’t get him acquitted.
This suspenseful novel is very realistic. You can feel Andrew’s cold control and manipulations as well as Leigh’s fear and panic. “False Witness” is fast read but is not for the delicate--it's very graphic and very emotional.