As a little girl climbs off a school bus on the Upper East Side of New York, a man named Trent rushes from the shadows to stab her viciously, instantly becoming the city's latest pariah and setting into motion an increasingly bizarre chain of occurrences. At one end of the chain is Sybylla Muldoon, the Legal Aid attorney who must somehow overcome eyewitness accounts, devastating forensic evidence, and the brutal disfigurement of an innocent child in her struggle to defend Trent; at the other is the mystery of why a previously peaceful and rational man should suddenly commit such an abhorrent crime. Sybylla's client may be inescapably guilty of the act, but everything about the case feels unaccountably wrong.
Raised to argue both sides of anything by her father, a conservative judge whom she adores even as she rejects his politics, Sybylla is committed to the principles of public defense but growing increasingly weary in its practice. Now as she readies Trent's case for trial, Sybylla makes a series of seemingly unrelated discoveries that bind together a thriving trial consulting firm dealing exclusively with conservative prosecuting attorneys, a pattern of unnoticed abductions among New York's homeless, a long-abandoned avenue of medical research, and Sam, Sybylla's new colleague at Legal Aid whom she falls for but can't quite trust. In the end, Trent's mystery leads her to the very summit of the American legal system—the confirmation hearings of a Supreme Court nominee—and to the heart of her own family history, until Sybylla must reconsider virtually everything she believes she knows about her own life.
With its captivating protagonist and its timely consideration of juries, trial consultants, and that elusive notion, justice, A Jury of Her Peers is a chilling novel about the law—and those who seek to corrupt it.
This fast-moving legal thriller, an accomplished first novel, follows New York City Legal Aid lawyer Sybylla Muldoon as she prepares to defend a once-gentle homeless man named Trent who has been arrested for the brutal stabbing of an Upper East Side schoolgirl. Initially, Trent manifests classic signs of schizophrenia, but he soon becomes coherent and, while intimating a tale of abduction, refuses to speak more fully until his trial. As Koreliltz traces Sybylla's approach to this high-profile case, she reveals the day-to-day workings of modern justice as played out in New York City's crowded courtrooms at 100 Centre Street. Utterly commited to her clients, Sybylla, a postfeminist Nancy Drew, exhibits a thinking woman's appeal that is heightened by both her difficult relationship with her father, a noted right-leaning jurist who may soon become a Supreme Court nominee, and a developing romantic interest. Although the plot, featuring murder, conspiracy, politics and the perversion of justice, moves into Robin Cook territory for a time, Korelitz's convincing characterization, vigorous prose and rapid-fire pacing deliver thoughtful entertainment along with the promised thrills.