cover image False Witness

False Witness

Lelia Kelly. Kensington Publishing Corporation, $23 (324pp) ISBN 978-1-57566-490-3

An elaborate scam based on a conspiracy between two men with the same name lies at the heart of this placid mystery featuring novice assistant DA Laura Chastain (Presumption of Guilt). Wealthy Christine Stanley has been murdered in her upscale Atlanta residence, leaving behind two shocked and bewildered children. Suspicion falls upon her husband, financial manager James T. Stanley, even though his alibi seems airtight (he was out of town on business). James has been living beyond his means, skimming his children's trust funds and defrauding his clients. Two weeks before her death, moreover, Christine had seen a divorce lawyer. But Laura and her demanding if supportive boss find that the road to convicting James is fraught with pitfalls. For one, James's lawyer is extraordinarily shrewd. For another, Laura's chief witness--the other Jim Stanley, who says he stood in for James during the suspect's out-of-town trip--appears to be a consummate liar. Who is deceiving whom? Laura is alternately energized and baffled by the myriad complexities engendered by the two Jim Stanleys. Kelly presents an interesting puzzle, and she buoys her narrative by giving Laura a sweet, low-key romance, despite her ongoing recovery from the trauma of seeing her lover and mentor murdered four months earlier. Nonetheless, the novel's slow pace and convoluted plotting will tax most readers' patience. (Jan.)