cover image Lily White

Lily White

Susan Isaacs. HarperCollins Publishers, $25 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-06-017607-5

Marjorie Morningstar meets Nancy Drew in Isaacs's latest, which succeeds as both a coming-of-age story and a legal thriller. Her wit honed by familiarity with two milieus she knows well, Isaacs creates a character who moves between the conspicuous consumption of upwardly mobile and dying-to-be-assimilated Jews on Long Island and the criminal justice system (Isaacs's husband is a well-known attorney), where a successful trial lawyer sometimes must defend unsavory clients. These spheres are joined in Lily White, nee Lily Rose Weiss, who narrates the sections of the novel that deal with her defense of oily con man Norman Torkelson and her suspicions that his gorgeous girlfriend actually committed the crime for which he is charged, the murder of a ``mark'' whom he had fleeced out of thousands of dollars by promising to marry her. Running in tandem are chapters that describe Lily's self-absorbed parents' rise in the world and the ludicrous ways in which they try to fit into WASP society. It's especially ironic that when Lily weds super-WASP Jasper ""Jazz"" Foster, whom she has adored from childhood, the marriage succumbs to pressures that arise as much from class differences as they do from character. Irony succeeds irony when Jazz declares himself in love with Lily's sister, Robin, Lily's complete antithesis. If it sometimes seems that these parallel narratives should have been two different books, most readers will bond with Lily and gladly switch back and forth between the stages of her life. For on one level, Isaacs has created a pitch-perfect social satire; on another, while the suspense is never spine tingling, she has written a psychological thriller whose portraits of an amoral conman and his mate, of the dehumanizing effects of the prison system and of the stages of a criminal investigation are rendered with snappy authenticity. Literary Guild and Doubleday $250,000 main selections; ad/promo; simultaneous audio; author tour; rights: William Morris Agency. (July)