cover image Saving Emma

Saving Emma

Allen Eskens. Mulholland, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-0-316-56635-3

Eskens (Forsaken Country) brilliantly combines legal and personal drama in this stellar standalone mystery. Minnesota law professor and Innocence Project volunteer Boady Sanden has been caring for Emma Pruitt, the daughter of his college friend, Ben, since the public defender was gunned down by police four years ago while facing charges for killing his wife. One afternoon, Ruth Matthews brings her brother Elijah’s file to Boady at the Innocence Project: Elijah has been convicted of brutally murdering pastor Jalen Bale, but Ruth’s certain he’s innocent. She buttresses her claim with a photo, never presented in Elijah’s trial, that clearly shows him at a magic show at the exact moment of Bale’s murder. Then a bomb drops: Elijah was Ben’s last case before he died, and—having recommended that Ben become a public defender—Boady feels responsible for clearing Elijah’s name. Meanwhile, Emma’s aunt convinces the teen that Boady and his wife are covering up information about the deaths of her parents and leverages that claim for custody. Eskens peppers the thorny, propulsive plot with superior turns of phrase (unreliable memories are compared to “the boards of an aging footbridge, the planks heavy with decay”) and fully realized characters. Scott Turow fans will be enthralled. Agent: Amy Cloughley, Kimberley Cameron and Assoc. (Sept.)