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The Truth about the Devlins

Author Lisa Scottoline On Tour
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

USA Today Bestseller

Lisa Scottoline, the #1 bestselling author of What Happened to the Bennetts, presents another pulse-pounding domestic thriller about family, justice, and the lies that tear us apart.


TJ Devlin is the charming disappointment in the prominent Devlin family, all of whom are lawyers at their highly successful firm—except him. After a stint in prison and rehab for alcoholism, TJ can’t get hired anywhere except at the firm, in a make-work job with the title of investigator.

But one night, TJ’s world turns upside down after his older brother John confesses that he murdered one of their clients, an accountant he’d confronted with proof of embezzlement. It seems impossible coming from John, the firstborn son and Most Valuable Devlin.

TJ plunges into the investigation, seizing the chance to prove his worth and save his brother. But in no time, TJ and John find themselves entangled in a lethal web of deception and murder. TJ will fight to save his family, but what he learns might break them first.
Chapter One

At first I thought I heard him wrong. It was impossible coming from John, my older brother, the firstborn son, the Most Valuable Devlin. Me, I'm the black sheep, the baby of the family, the charming disappointment. John was Class President, and I was Class Clown. He was Most Likely to Succeed, I was Most Likely to Get a Speeding Ticket. That's why I never expected him to confess to murder.

"What?" My mouth dropped open. "Did you just say you killed somebody?"

"Yes." My brother nodded, jittery. His blue eyes looked unfocused, which never happened. Lasers have nothing on John Devlin.

"That can't be. Not you. You're, like, the best-"

"I did it," John said, panicky. "I killed a man. TJ, what should I do?"

"How do I know? You're the lawyer." I didn't get it. John and everyone else in my family were lawyers in our family firm, Devlin & Devlin. I'm a convicted criminal. On second thought, maybe I would've asked me, too.

"God, no, I can't believe this." Tears filmed John's eyes, which surprised me. I didn't know he had any emotions except disapproval. We stood on the large flagstone patio overlooking the pool and pool house. When he'd taken me outside tonight, I thought he wanted the two grand I owed him.

"John, who did you . . . kill?"

"A client."

Yikes. I'm an investigator at the law firm. My family keeps me behind the scenes, but I don't need applause, just a paycheck. Being an ex-con doesn't pay as well as it should. "Tell me what happened."

"I don't know where to start. Oh God, this is awful." John grimaced, stricken. He ran his tongue over his lips. "Okay, well, we were at the corporate center, Knickerbocker Quarry. I hit him with a rock-"

"A rock?" What is this, summer camp? "Why? When?"

"Less than an hour ago. I came directly here."

Meanwhile there was no blood on him. Only my brother could kill somebody with a rock and not get dirty. His silk tie was spotless and his Brioni suit fit him like Batman. "How did you beat him with a rock and-"

"I didn't beat him. I threw the rock and it hit him in the head. I heard a crack . . ." John's upper lip curled with disgust. "Then he dropped."

I figured it was his fastball. John pitched for Villanova, where every Devlin but me went to college. "Then what happened?"

"I came here. I knew Nancy and everybody would be waiting. I panicked." John raked a hand through thinning brown hair. He was forty years old but looked fifty and usually acted eighty, but not tonight.

"Okay, let's go. We have to do something with the body."

John recoiled. "Like what?"

"Bury it?" Isn't that why you're telling me?

"TJ, no, we can't. I don't know what to do." John rubbed his face. "We can't leave now. You know how Dad is about his birthday."

I glanced through the window to the dining room, where dinner was just getting underway. My mother was setting an antipasto platter on the table, and my father stood talking with my sister, Gabby, and her husband, Martin. John's wife, Nancy, sat with my little nephew, Connor, who was playing with a Matchbox Jaguar I'd brought him. My father's birthday was a national holiday in our house. Christmas never had it so good.

John straightened, blinking. "TJ, I can't live with this. I'm coming clean. I'm going to tell-"

"No, stop." I grabbed him by his hand-stitched lapel. "You'll go to prison."

"I deserve to."

"You can't handle it."

"You did."

"That's how I know you can't."

"I can if you can."

My brother is crazy competitive. If he'd been in the Donner party, he would've pigged out. "John, let's go-"

"Here's Mom now." John turned, and my mother opened the French doors to the patio, making a chic silhouette in a dark Chanel pantsuit, backlit by the chandelier. Marie Spano Devlin had the only brown eyes and strong nose in our family, and her olive skin was spared our regulation-Irish freckles. Silvery strands gleamed in her onyx-black chignon and lines bracketed her mouth, but to me, she'd only gotten lovelier with age. I adore my mother, and she always has my back. She calls me her little devil, which fits.

"Boys, time for dinner."

"Mom, sorry, we have to go." I detected Lambrusco on her breath, sipped out of sight because of my sobriety. The scent wasn't strong, but I'm McGruff for booze.

"Go where?" My mother blinked, puzzled. "We're about to eat."

"I know, sorry." I tugged John into the dining room, and my mother stepped aside, her lips parting in dismay.

"TJ, what's going on? You can't miss dinner."

"Please, eat without us." I hustled past the table as everyone looked at us in surprise, especially my father. Paul Francis Devlin had graying light brown hair, and we looked a lot alike. We had the same blue eyes, round and set far apart with thick eyebrows, a longish nose, and a mouth that was on the big side. Every time I looked at my father, I saw a successful version of myself. I can only guess what he saw when he looked at me.

"TJ, where do you think you're going? You'll miss dinner."

"I know, I'm really sorry but it can't be helped." I kept moving but my father was already out of his chair. He'd taken off his tie, and his white oxford shirt was wrinkled from the workday. He was a big guy, six three and in decent shape. He'd played basketball at Villanova before they were Final Four good, a former power forward who still exuded power.

John added, "I'm sorry, too. We'll be back as soon as we can."

"John, what did TJ do now?" my father snapped, assuming that I was in trouble and John was helping me, which even I had to admit made sense. I was the Bad Son and John was the Good Son. Our roles in our family are like our seats at the kitchen table. Forever.

I dragged John out of the house and down the flagstone steps to the circular driveway. My parents lived in a McMansion that reeked of curb appeal, on six acres of perfect landscaping in Philly's exclusive Main Line. Automatic sprinklers whirred in the garden, and the air smelled like ChemLawn. I never felt at home here because we grew up in the Devlin starter house, and our problems started after we got rich. Not that I have anything against money. Money has something against me.

We walked to my car, which was parked behind John's and my sister's black Range Rovers. My father and mother both have black Range Rovers, too. Sometimes I'm surprised they didn't name the firm Devlin & Devlin & Devlin & Devlin.

"I'll drive, let's go." I opened the door and jumped in my car, and John followed suit, frowning.

"New car? You've owed me two grand since forever."

"You'll get it back, I needed new calipers." I'm a car guy. I buy cars at seized-asset auctions, fix them up, and flip them. This one was a 2020 Maserati Quattroporte, formerly owned by a drug kingpin. Basically, I put the car in cartel.

"Don't drive crazy."

"Have we met?" I pressed a button, igniting one of the most distinctive engines on the planet.

We took off.

Chapter Two

We whizzed past big stone houses, townhome developments, and strip malls. John let his anxiety show now that we were alone, raking his hand through his hair again. I gave him time to calm down, but I had questions.

"So, John, tell me what happened."

"It's horrible, it all happened so fast, I just reacted."

"What happened? Break it down."

"I don't know where to start." John rubbed his face. "There was so much blood. I didn't mean to kill him. I wasn't aiming for his head. I was aiming for the gun."

"Who's the client? Do I know him?"

"No. His name's Neil Lemaire. He's the accountant at Runstan Electronics."

"Why were you meeting with him?"

"Okay, well." John tried to rally. "The company's being acquired, and I was doing due diligence. I found irregularities in the accounting."

"Like money missing?" My brother has an accounting degree and a law degree, but I can juggle.

"Yes."

"How much?"

"About a hundred grand."

Wow. "So he was embezzling?"

"Ya think? It had to be him because he's the only accountant at the company. I told him we needed to talk and he asked me to meet him, so I agreed."

"Alone?"

"Yes."

I realized my brother was a dumb smart person. I myself am a smart dumb person. If I were accusing somebody of embezzling a hundred grand, I'd bring an army. "So then what happened?"

"I confronted him, and he denied it. Then he offered to pay me to cover it up."

I brightened. "How much?"

John shot me a disapproving look. "I didn't ask, TJ. I'm in a fiduciary relationship to Runstan. I can't countenance criminal acts by its employees."

"Weren't you curious?"

"Of course not."

"Me, neither," I said, but I wasn't kidding anybody. "Then what happened?"

"I said no, and Lemaire started pacing back and forth. Then all of a sudden, he pulled a gun on me and told me to get on my knees."

Holy shit. "So that's self-defense. He threatened your life."

"Right, I know, but still . . . I killed him."

"It's not murder, though."

"Technically, self-defense is a defense to murder. Don't play lawyer, TJ."

"Don't play criminal, John."

"Anyway, I knelt down and saw a rock on the ground, so I grabbed it and winged it at him. I hit him in the forehead. He dropped and fell on his back. He didn't move. It was awful. There was blood all over his face, and his legs were bent under him. He was dead."

"Then what did you do?"

"Like I said, I got scared, I panicked, I ran." John shook his head, and I could see he was getting nervous again, a sight I would have otherwise enjoyed.

"Okay, don't worry, just calm down."

"How can I?" John threw up his hands. "I killed the guy!"

"Deep breath. Relax."

"Oh, shut up." John fell silent, looking out the window.

I gripped the wheel, driving fast. We'd be there in no time, and my emotions were catching up with me. I've done terrible things, but I'd never kill anybody. My destruction is aimed at myself, where it belongs.

I realized that once we got there, we'd have to decide what to do. I knew what I'd do, but I didn't know what John would do.

I focused on the road, and we hurtled ahead.

Chapter Three

It was dusk by the time we reached a deserted stretch near an underpass to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. There was nothing around, no lights or security cameras, only a rusted cyclone fence collapsed in sections around a grassy area, accessed by a service road of gravel, dirt, and stones that were bad for my undercarriage. I drove the Maserati only on dry asphalt and never to a murder scene.

"John, this is the place? You said it was a corporate center."

"This is Phase Two of Knickerbocker Quarry Center. They start construction next month. Phase One is on the other side of the quarry."

"So how'd you end up here?"

"We met at the corporate center, and Lemaire told me to follow him, so I did. I didn't know it was like this until I got here. Park ahead, near the opening in the fence."

I drove up, cut the ignition, and we got out of the car. John bolted ahead through the fence opening, and I hurried after him on a deer path of weeds and overgrown grass. I was almost through when I heard John's shocked voice.

"TJ!"

I reached him, standing in a clearing. There was no dead body, only dirt, grass, and brush. "Where is he?"

"I don't know," John answered, astonished. "He was right here. He was on his back. He was dead, I know it. Blood poured onto the ground."

We both looked down. Blackness glimmered underneath the grass, rubble, and stones. I crouched and swiped the spot with my fingers, which came away gritty with blood. "Okay, so he was here. I don't see the gun or the rock, do you?"

"No. He must've taken them."

"Hmm. Odd. That would be thinking straight, for somebody who had his clock cleaned."

"What do you mean?"

"You know, he'd be woozy, like you feel after a brawl."

John snorted. "I've never been in one."

"You're Irish, bro. You should be ashamed."

"That's a stereotype."

"It's a virtue."

"Whatever, clearly he's alive." John threw up his arms. "Which means I didn't kill him! Thank God!"

"Wait." I realized something. "Where's his car? There was no car out front."

"My God, yes!" John shot back, elated. "His car's gone! He really is alive!"

"It's the likeliest explanation."

"It's the only explanation." John broke into a grin. "He's alive, he drove away. What else could have happened?"

"I'm thinking."

"Of what?"

"What else could have happened. I'm trying to analyze-"

"You? Analyze?"

That stung, but I stuffed it. I'm good at stuffing my feelings, though apparently it's a bad thing to be good at. "How do you know he was alone?"

"There were no other cars."

"He could have had somebody already in place, hiding."

John's smile faded. "Why would he?"

"In case something went sideways, which it did. Someone could be watching us, even now." I scanned the scene but saw nothing suspicious. The corporate center and apartment complex were on the far side of the quarry. Beyond that was the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and the whooshing of traffic was background noise.

John grimaced. "You really think someone's watching?"

"It's possible. What kind of car did he drive?"

"I don't know, a Volvo?"

"A sedan?"

"Yes."

"What color?"

"Maroon. TJ, is everything about cars?"

I let it go. "Let's look around, just in case. You go right and I'll go left." I took off, searching for a body. There was none, only more weeds, underbrush, and thornbushes. The wind picked up, and brownish reeds rustled with a dry sound. Shards of beer bottles glinted in the grass, and I expected to find a used condom, but didn't. Kids today disappoint me. Always on TikTok.

I walked through a section of cyclone fence that had been torn down, then stepped on a metal sign. danger-cliff edge, it read in big red letters. no trespassing beyond this point. Below that was a stick figure in cartoon waves. deep cold water. do not swim. I got the gist.

I reached the quarry, a massive chasm of about eighty acres excavated into the earth. Its drop was steep and lethal, and its stone walls striated with gray, black, and dark brown veins and ledges of vegetation. There was water at the bottom, its greenish chop glimmering in the waning light. I squinted for a floating body but didn't see one.
A LibraryReads Hall of Fame Pick

One of Mystery Tribune's Best Crime, Mystery, and Thriller Books of March 2024
One of Brit+CO's Most-Anticipated & Best New Books of 2024

"A multi-layered and well plotted story that takes narrative twists and turns . . . An emotionally stirring and powerful story about justice, repercussions, redemption, and the strength of family bonds." Fresh Fiction

"Family dysfunction and life-threatening circumstances are the least of the variety of twists and turns with which Scottoline peppers this labyrinthine plot. . . . The Truth About the Devlins is a romp with exacting amounts of soul and sabotage, surprise and success, that even the most jaded mystery reader will find it to be a jolt to his or her system.” —Bookreporter

"[Scottoline] plunges right into a story and piles the twists on along the way . . . [and] gives us a conclusion that is not only surprising but much more satisfying." —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"[In] The Truth About the Devlins, Lisa Scottoline introduces a dysfunctional family that really puts the “fun” in “dysfunctional . . . Scottoline explores those deliciously screwed-up family dynamics with gusto . . . Part family drama, part legal thriller, Scottoline proves once again why she’s a master of the genre. You’ll burn through this book in no time flat." —Mystery Scene

"Lisa Scottoline, always a sure bet to keep readers on the edge of their seats, skillfully combines fascinating elements of family drama, suspense, and crime in her latest expertly crafted thriller... Still at the very top of her game, Scottoline delivers another compelling thriller with The Truth About the Devlins, an irresistible story that dares to explore the fragility of familial ties, the quest for redemption, and the consequences of buried secrets." The Real Book Spy

"The tense mystery plays out as a catalyst for redemption and family healing—Scottoline’s heart-warming specialty. . . . A new family thriller by best-selling Scottoline is automatically a must-have." —Booklist

"A ripping blend of legal and family drama.” —Publishers Weekly
 
"What do you get when you combine family dysfunction plus deep, dark secrets plus legal drama? A thoroughly engrossing thriller that will keep you riveted till the very end. Scottoline knocks this one out of the park!” —Lisa Gardner

Praise for Lisa Scottoline
 
"Scottoline is a powerhouse." —David Baldacci

"Scottoline writes riveting thrillers that keep me up all night, with plots that twist
and turn." —Harlan Coben

"Scottoline is one of the very best writers today." —Michael Connelly

"Scottoline just keeps ratcheting up the pressure in what may be her most emotionally intense nail-biter to date." —People

"An absorbing, cinematic read with heart." —The Washington Post
 
"Twisty, propulsive, and exhilarating . . . Left me dazzled and breathless." —Megan Abbott

"An emotion-packed thriller that stabs at the core of family, betrayal, and justice. Scottoline drives the plot at breakneck speed and keeps readers turning the pages." —Robert Dugoni

"Scottoline is at the top of her already masterful game. . . . Compulsively readable, seamlessly delivering one blazing twist after another with relentless pacing." —Alafair Burke

"Scottoline knows how to keep readers in her grip." The New York Times Book Review

"Scottoline is a star." Time
© Jeff Wojtaszek
Lisa Scottoline is the number-one bestselling and Edgar Award–winning author of thirty-five novels. A former President of Mystery Writers of America, she has thirty million copies of her books in print and has been published in thirty-five countries. Her books have been optioned for film and TV, and she has also co-authored a series of humorous memoirs with her daughter, novelist Francesca Serritella. A former lawyer, Scottoline taught a course she developed, “Justice & Fiction,” at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, her alma mater. She lives on a farm outside Philadelphia with an array of disobedient pets. View titles by Lisa Scottoline

About

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

USA Today Bestseller

Lisa Scottoline, the #1 bestselling author of What Happened to the Bennetts, presents another pulse-pounding domestic thriller about family, justice, and the lies that tear us apart.


TJ Devlin is the charming disappointment in the prominent Devlin family, all of whom are lawyers at their highly successful firm—except him. After a stint in prison and rehab for alcoholism, TJ can’t get hired anywhere except at the firm, in a make-work job with the title of investigator.

But one night, TJ’s world turns upside down after his older brother John confesses that he murdered one of their clients, an accountant he’d confronted with proof of embezzlement. It seems impossible coming from John, the firstborn son and Most Valuable Devlin.

TJ plunges into the investigation, seizing the chance to prove his worth and save his brother. But in no time, TJ and John find themselves entangled in a lethal web of deception and murder. TJ will fight to save his family, but what he learns might break them first.

Excerpt

Chapter One

At first I thought I heard him wrong. It was impossible coming from John, my older brother, the firstborn son, the Most Valuable Devlin. Me, I'm the black sheep, the baby of the family, the charming disappointment. John was Class President, and I was Class Clown. He was Most Likely to Succeed, I was Most Likely to Get a Speeding Ticket. That's why I never expected him to confess to murder.

"What?" My mouth dropped open. "Did you just say you killed somebody?"

"Yes." My brother nodded, jittery. His blue eyes looked unfocused, which never happened. Lasers have nothing on John Devlin.

"That can't be. Not you. You're, like, the best-"

"I did it," John said, panicky. "I killed a man. TJ, what should I do?"

"How do I know? You're the lawyer." I didn't get it. John and everyone else in my family were lawyers in our family firm, Devlin & Devlin. I'm a convicted criminal. On second thought, maybe I would've asked me, too.

"God, no, I can't believe this." Tears filmed John's eyes, which surprised me. I didn't know he had any emotions except disapproval. We stood on the large flagstone patio overlooking the pool and pool house. When he'd taken me outside tonight, I thought he wanted the two grand I owed him.

"John, who did you . . . kill?"

"A client."

Yikes. I'm an investigator at the law firm. My family keeps me behind the scenes, but I don't need applause, just a paycheck. Being an ex-con doesn't pay as well as it should. "Tell me what happened."

"I don't know where to start. Oh God, this is awful." John grimaced, stricken. He ran his tongue over his lips. "Okay, well, we were at the corporate center, Knickerbocker Quarry. I hit him with a rock-"

"A rock?" What is this, summer camp? "Why? When?"

"Less than an hour ago. I came directly here."

Meanwhile there was no blood on him. Only my brother could kill somebody with a rock and not get dirty. His silk tie was spotless and his Brioni suit fit him like Batman. "How did you beat him with a rock and-"

"I didn't beat him. I threw the rock and it hit him in the head. I heard a crack . . ." John's upper lip curled with disgust. "Then he dropped."

I figured it was his fastball. John pitched for Villanova, where every Devlin but me went to college. "Then what happened?"

"I came here. I knew Nancy and everybody would be waiting. I panicked." John raked a hand through thinning brown hair. He was forty years old but looked fifty and usually acted eighty, but not tonight.

"Okay, let's go. We have to do something with the body."

John recoiled. "Like what?"

"Bury it?" Isn't that why you're telling me?

"TJ, no, we can't. I don't know what to do." John rubbed his face. "We can't leave now. You know how Dad is about his birthday."

I glanced through the window to the dining room, where dinner was just getting underway. My mother was setting an antipasto platter on the table, and my father stood talking with my sister, Gabby, and her husband, Martin. John's wife, Nancy, sat with my little nephew, Connor, who was playing with a Matchbox Jaguar I'd brought him. My father's birthday was a national holiday in our house. Christmas never had it so good.

John straightened, blinking. "TJ, I can't live with this. I'm coming clean. I'm going to tell-"

"No, stop." I grabbed him by his hand-stitched lapel. "You'll go to prison."

"I deserve to."

"You can't handle it."

"You did."

"That's how I know you can't."

"I can if you can."

My brother is crazy competitive. If he'd been in the Donner party, he would've pigged out. "John, let's go-"

"Here's Mom now." John turned, and my mother opened the French doors to the patio, making a chic silhouette in a dark Chanel pantsuit, backlit by the chandelier. Marie Spano Devlin had the only brown eyes and strong nose in our family, and her olive skin was spared our regulation-Irish freckles. Silvery strands gleamed in her onyx-black chignon and lines bracketed her mouth, but to me, she'd only gotten lovelier with age. I adore my mother, and she always has my back. She calls me her little devil, which fits.

"Boys, time for dinner."

"Mom, sorry, we have to go." I detected Lambrusco on her breath, sipped out of sight because of my sobriety. The scent wasn't strong, but I'm McGruff for booze.

"Go where?" My mother blinked, puzzled. "We're about to eat."

"I know, sorry." I tugged John into the dining room, and my mother stepped aside, her lips parting in dismay.

"TJ, what's going on? You can't miss dinner."

"Please, eat without us." I hustled past the table as everyone looked at us in surprise, especially my father. Paul Francis Devlin had graying light brown hair, and we looked a lot alike. We had the same blue eyes, round and set far apart with thick eyebrows, a longish nose, and a mouth that was on the big side. Every time I looked at my father, I saw a successful version of myself. I can only guess what he saw when he looked at me.

"TJ, where do you think you're going? You'll miss dinner."

"I know, I'm really sorry but it can't be helped." I kept moving but my father was already out of his chair. He'd taken off his tie, and his white oxford shirt was wrinkled from the workday. He was a big guy, six three and in decent shape. He'd played basketball at Villanova before they were Final Four good, a former power forward who still exuded power.

John added, "I'm sorry, too. We'll be back as soon as we can."

"John, what did TJ do now?" my father snapped, assuming that I was in trouble and John was helping me, which even I had to admit made sense. I was the Bad Son and John was the Good Son. Our roles in our family are like our seats at the kitchen table. Forever.

I dragged John out of the house and down the flagstone steps to the circular driveway. My parents lived in a McMansion that reeked of curb appeal, on six acres of perfect landscaping in Philly's exclusive Main Line. Automatic sprinklers whirred in the garden, and the air smelled like ChemLawn. I never felt at home here because we grew up in the Devlin starter house, and our problems started after we got rich. Not that I have anything against money. Money has something against me.

We walked to my car, which was parked behind John's and my sister's black Range Rovers. My father and mother both have black Range Rovers, too. Sometimes I'm surprised they didn't name the firm Devlin & Devlin & Devlin & Devlin.

"I'll drive, let's go." I opened the door and jumped in my car, and John followed suit, frowning.

"New car? You've owed me two grand since forever."

"You'll get it back, I needed new calipers." I'm a car guy. I buy cars at seized-asset auctions, fix them up, and flip them. This one was a 2020 Maserati Quattroporte, formerly owned by a drug kingpin. Basically, I put the car in cartel.

"Don't drive crazy."

"Have we met?" I pressed a button, igniting one of the most distinctive engines on the planet.

We took off.

Chapter Two

We whizzed past big stone houses, townhome developments, and strip malls. John let his anxiety show now that we were alone, raking his hand through his hair again. I gave him time to calm down, but I had questions.

"So, John, tell me what happened."

"It's horrible, it all happened so fast, I just reacted."

"What happened? Break it down."

"I don't know where to start." John rubbed his face. "There was so much blood. I didn't mean to kill him. I wasn't aiming for his head. I was aiming for the gun."

"Who's the client? Do I know him?"

"No. His name's Neil Lemaire. He's the accountant at Runstan Electronics."

"Why were you meeting with him?"

"Okay, well." John tried to rally. "The company's being acquired, and I was doing due diligence. I found irregularities in the accounting."

"Like money missing?" My brother has an accounting degree and a law degree, but I can juggle.

"Yes."

"How much?"

"About a hundred grand."

Wow. "So he was embezzling?"

"Ya think? It had to be him because he's the only accountant at the company. I told him we needed to talk and he asked me to meet him, so I agreed."

"Alone?"

"Yes."

I realized my brother was a dumb smart person. I myself am a smart dumb person. If I were accusing somebody of embezzling a hundred grand, I'd bring an army. "So then what happened?"

"I confronted him, and he denied it. Then he offered to pay me to cover it up."

I brightened. "How much?"

John shot me a disapproving look. "I didn't ask, TJ. I'm in a fiduciary relationship to Runstan. I can't countenance criminal acts by its employees."

"Weren't you curious?"

"Of course not."

"Me, neither," I said, but I wasn't kidding anybody. "Then what happened?"

"I said no, and Lemaire started pacing back and forth. Then all of a sudden, he pulled a gun on me and told me to get on my knees."

Holy shit. "So that's self-defense. He threatened your life."

"Right, I know, but still . . . I killed him."

"It's not murder, though."

"Technically, self-defense is a defense to murder. Don't play lawyer, TJ."

"Don't play criminal, John."

"Anyway, I knelt down and saw a rock on the ground, so I grabbed it and winged it at him. I hit him in the forehead. He dropped and fell on his back. He didn't move. It was awful. There was blood all over his face, and his legs were bent under him. He was dead."

"Then what did you do?"

"Like I said, I got scared, I panicked, I ran." John shook his head, and I could see he was getting nervous again, a sight I would have otherwise enjoyed.

"Okay, don't worry, just calm down."

"How can I?" John threw up his hands. "I killed the guy!"

"Deep breath. Relax."

"Oh, shut up." John fell silent, looking out the window.

I gripped the wheel, driving fast. We'd be there in no time, and my emotions were catching up with me. I've done terrible things, but I'd never kill anybody. My destruction is aimed at myself, where it belongs.

I realized that once we got there, we'd have to decide what to do. I knew what I'd do, but I didn't know what John would do.

I focused on the road, and we hurtled ahead.

Chapter Three

It was dusk by the time we reached a deserted stretch near an underpass to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. There was nothing around, no lights or security cameras, only a rusted cyclone fence collapsed in sections around a grassy area, accessed by a service road of gravel, dirt, and stones that were bad for my undercarriage. I drove the Maserati only on dry asphalt and never to a murder scene.

"John, this is the place? You said it was a corporate center."

"This is Phase Two of Knickerbocker Quarry Center. They start construction next month. Phase One is on the other side of the quarry."

"So how'd you end up here?"

"We met at the corporate center, and Lemaire told me to follow him, so I did. I didn't know it was like this until I got here. Park ahead, near the opening in the fence."

I drove up, cut the ignition, and we got out of the car. John bolted ahead through the fence opening, and I hurried after him on a deer path of weeds and overgrown grass. I was almost through when I heard John's shocked voice.

"TJ!"

I reached him, standing in a clearing. There was no dead body, only dirt, grass, and brush. "Where is he?"

"I don't know," John answered, astonished. "He was right here. He was on his back. He was dead, I know it. Blood poured onto the ground."

We both looked down. Blackness glimmered underneath the grass, rubble, and stones. I crouched and swiped the spot with my fingers, which came away gritty with blood. "Okay, so he was here. I don't see the gun or the rock, do you?"

"No. He must've taken them."

"Hmm. Odd. That would be thinking straight, for somebody who had his clock cleaned."

"What do you mean?"

"You know, he'd be woozy, like you feel after a brawl."

John snorted. "I've never been in one."

"You're Irish, bro. You should be ashamed."

"That's a stereotype."

"It's a virtue."

"Whatever, clearly he's alive." John threw up his arms. "Which means I didn't kill him! Thank God!"

"Wait." I realized something. "Where's his car? There was no car out front."

"My God, yes!" John shot back, elated. "His car's gone! He really is alive!"

"It's the likeliest explanation."

"It's the only explanation." John broke into a grin. "He's alive, he drove away. What else could have happened?"

"I'm thinking."

"Of what?"

"What else could have happened. I'm trying to analyze-"

"You? Analyze?"

That stung, but I stuffed it. I'm good at stuffing my feelings, though apparently it's a bad thing to be good at. "How do you know he was alone?"

"There were no other cars."

"He could have had somebody already in place, hiding."

John's smile faded. "Why would he?"

"In case something went sideways, which it did. Someone could be watching us, even now." I scanned the scene but saw nothing suspicious. The corporate center and apartment complex were on the far side of the quarry. Beyond that was the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and the whooshing of traffic was background noise.

John grimaced. "You really think someone's watching?"

"It's possible. What kind of car did he drive?"

"I don't know, a Volvo?"

"A sedan?"

"Yes."

"What color?"

"Maroon. TJ, is everything about cars?"

I let it go. "Let's look around, just in case. You go right and I'll go left." I took off, searching for a body. There was none, only more weeds, underbrush, and thornbushes. The wind picked up, and brownish reeds rustled with a dry sound. Shards of beer bottles glinted in the grass, and I expected to find a used condom, but didn't. Kids today disappoint me. Always on TikTok.

I walked through a section of cyclone fence that had been torn down, then stepped on a metal sign. danger-cliff edge, it read in big red letters. no trespassing beyond this point. Below that was a stick figure in cartoon waves. deep cold water. do not swim. I got the gist.

I reached the quarry, a massive chasm of about eighty acres excavated into the earth. Its drop was steep and lethal, and its stone walls striated with gray, black, and dark brown veins and ledges of vegetation. There was water at the bottom, its greenish chop glimmering in the waning light. I squinted for a floating body but didn't see one.

Reviews

A LibraryReads Hall of Fame Pick

One of Mystery Tribune's Best Crime, Mystery, and Thriller Books of March 2024
One of Brit+CO's Most-Anticipated & Best New Books of 2024

"A multi-layered and well plotted story that takes narrative twists and turns . . . An emotionally stirring and powerful story about justice, repercussions, redemption, and the strength of family bonds." Fresh Fiction

"Family dysfunction and life-threatening circumstances are the least of the variety of twists and turns with which Scottoline peppers this labyrinthine plot. . . . The Truth About the Devlins is a romp with exacting amounts of soul and sabotage, surprise and success, that even the most jaded mystery reader will find it to be a jolt to his or her system.” —Bookreporter

"[Scottoline] plunges right into a story and piles the twists on along the way . . . [and] gives us a conclusion that is not only surprising but much more satisfying." —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"[In] The Truth About the Devlins, Lisa Scottoline introduces a dysfunctional family that really puts the “fun” in “dysfunctional . . . Scottoline explores those deliciously screwed-up family dynamics with gusto . . . Part family drama, part legal thriller, Scottoline proves once again why she’s a master of the genre. You’ll burn through this book in no time flat." —Mystery Scene

"Lisa Scottoline, always a sure bet to keep readers on the edge of their seats, skillfully combines fascinating elements of family drama, suspense, and crime in her latest expertly crafted thriller... Still at the very top of her game, Scottoline delivers another compelling thriller with The Truth About the Devlins, an irresistible story that dares to explore the fragility of familial ties, the quest for redemption, and the consequences of buried secrets." The Real Book Spy

"The tense mystery plays out as a catalyst for redemption and family healing—Scottoline’s heart-warming specialty. . . . A new family thriller by best-selling Scottoline is automatically a must-have." —Booklist

"A ripping blend of legal and family drama.” —Publishers Weekly
 
"What do you get when you combine family dysfunction plus deep, dark secrets plus legal drama? A thoroughly engrossing thriller that will keep you riveted till the very end. Scottoline knocks this one out of the park!” —Lisa Gardner

Praise for Lisa Scottoline
 
"Scottoline is a powerhouse." —David Baldacci

"Scottoline writes riveting thrillers that keep me up all night, with plots that twist
and turn." —Harlan Coben

"Scottoline is one of the very best writers today." —Michael Connelly

"Scottoline just keeps ratcheting up the pressure in what may be her most emotionally intense nail-biter to date." —People

"An absorbing, cinematic read with heart." —The Washington Post
 
"Twisty, propulsive, and exhilarating . . . Left me dazzled and breathless." —Megan Abbott

"An emotion-packed thriller that stabs at the core of family, betrayal, and justice. Scottoline drives the plot at breakneck speed and keeps readers turning the pages." —Robert Dugoni

"Scottoline is at the top of her already masterful game. . . . Compulsively readable, seamlessly delivering one blazing twist after another with relentless pacing." —Alafair Burke

"Scottoline knows how to keep readers in her grip." The New York Times Book Review

"Scottoline is a star." Time

Author

© Jeff Wojtaszek
Lisa Scottoline is the number-one bestselling and Edgar Award–winning author of thirty-five novels. A former President of Mystery Writers of America, she has thirty million copies of her books in print and has been published in thirty-five countries. Her books have been optioned for film and TV, and she has also co-authored a series of humorous memoirs with her daughter, novelist Francesca Serritella. A former lawyer, Scottoline taught a course she developed, “Justice & Fiction,” at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, her alma mater. She lives on a farm outside Philadelphia with an array of disobedient pets. View titles by Lisa Scottoline