Reviewed by C.J. Darlington
The Whole Truth by James Scott
"The Whole Truth is a worthy tome in the Bell catalogue, cementing its place on our shelves right alongside John Grisham and Randy Singer."
Back in 2002, when young Elizabeth Smart was kidnaped out of her own bedroom window, the whole country felt the Utah family’s pain. We could only imagine the guilt, anguish and complete helplessness her parents felt. But there was someone else I remember empathizing with even more: Elizabeth’s younger sister, Mary Katherine. She’d been in the room when it happened. She’d waited to tell. What kind of guilt had she felt?
In James Scott Bell’s latest legal thriller The Whole Truth we find out exactly what she could have felt. As a tender five-year-old boy, Steve Conroy watched his older brother Robert be abducted from the bedroom they shared. And just like Mary Katherine, Steve didn’t tell. How could he? The man threatened to kill them both if he did. There was no way for Steve to know those first three hours are the most crucial in abduction cases. But unlike the Smart case where Elizabeth was returned to her family, Robert never came home.
Now thirty and a struggling lawyer, Steve Conroy has tried to get on with this life. But his Dad never did forgive him and eventually committed suicide. His mother died a few years later, and Steve’s experiences in the foster care system certainly didn’t help him heal. It was no surprise he eventually turned to drugs to rid himself of the guilt.
Those days are over, and Steve’s determined to better himself and live life clean and sober. Except things never seem to go right for him. His wife’s filed for divorce, and he can barely afford the rent of his shabby law office. Paying clients are few and far between.
Then a law student named Sienna shows up on his office doorstep. Not only does she skillfully ward off his landlord’s demands and buy him more time, but she fields a call from a prisoner named Johnny LaSalle who wants Steve to represent him. For ten thousand dollars. It’s an offer Steve isn’t about to refuse. Only Johnny turns out to be far more than he expected. How does the man know so many intimate things about him? Is he just an expert con, or could Johnny LaSalle really be his long-lost, dead brother?
James Scott Bell takes this intriguing what-if concept and weaves it into yet another page-turning, redemptive thriller. Chapter after chapter we’re perplexed and confused right alongside Steve. We feel for him each time he’s kicked to the dirt. We root for the guy when he slowly rises from the ashes. We gasp when a twist hits Steve, and us, between the eyes.
Bell’s novels have taken a darker turn these days, but The Whole Truth returns him to his roots. There’s more light here than in No Legal Grounds, something I welcome. Sienna’s open faith gives Steve, and the reader, much to ponder. The most interesting exchanges spiritually come as Steve is challenged by a religious cult leader who spouts Scripture left and right, yet manages to twist each verse to further his own desires. Even someone like Steve who’s avoided God and religion recognizes the deception. It’s an eye-opening perspective to see how innocent people can so easily be swept up in a man’s charisma.
The Whole Truth is a worthy tome in the Bell catalogue, cementing its place on our shelves right alongside John Grisham and Randy Singer.
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.