With this graphic serial killer/courtroom thriller, debut novelist Hoffman joins the lengthening list of high-powered legal ladies whose professional expertise serves as the basis for authentic, insider crime fiction. Blond, beautiful law student Chloe Larson is looking forward to a great future with successful New York businessman Michael Decker. Her expectations are shattered forever after a madman in a clown mask rapes and tortures her until she is near death. She survives physically, but psychologically slips into an extended mental breakdown. Twelve years later she's dyed her hair mousy brown and become unassuming, hardworking C.J. Townsend, assistant chief of the Miami Dade State Attorney's office. A suspiciously lucky break nets serial killer suspect William Bantling, and C.J. takes over the prosecution as part of her normal workload. When Bantling stands up in court and speaks, C.J. realizes he's the man who raped her years ago. C.J. learns that the statute of limitations has run out on her rape and that her involvement in that case might very well cause Bantling to be freed on a technicality. Love interest Special Agent Dominick Falconetti knows there is something seriously wrong as C.J.'s mental state begins to deteriorate, but she brushes off his concern and immerses herself in her work on the case. The far-fetched resolution will throw some readers, but Hoffman compensates with a compellingly horrific villain and an undeniably exciting final confrontation. (Jan. 5)
Forecast: Linda Fairstein (whose own novel, The Kills, goes head to head with this one in January) broke the ground and set the standard for this subgenre, and Hoffman fits right in and ups the ante with an original premise and more-graphic-than-usual violence. This was a big, six-figure, two-book deal; the film rights to the novel went for a million bucks. Add a hefty marketing budget, multiple foreign rights sales, Literary Guild, Book of the Month Club and Doubleday Book Club sales, and it all adds up to blockbuster.