If you've finished our "GMA" Book Club pick this month and are craving something else to read, look no further than our new digital series, "GMA" Buzz Picks. Each week, we'll feature a new book that we're also reading this month to give our audience even more literary adventures. Get started with our latest pick below!
This week's Buzz Pick is "You Will Know the Truth" by Leslie Thornton.
Thornton, who was raised in Philadelphia and has been a Washington, D.C.-based attorney for over 30 years, is out with a debut novel that is a political thriller based on real events. "You Will Know the Truth" takes readers on a nonstop ride that ricochets across the capital through courtrooms, backrooms and the Oval Office, all to unravel the dangerous mystery the White House is hiding.
When D.C. public defender Nicki Jo Lewis pulls the gruesome F Street murder no one is surprised -- she's the best. But quickly it becomes clear: This case is different.
D.C. police become mired in questions about another appalling crime scene seemingly unconnected. As Police Chief Coley tries to unravel the macabre findings there, his investigation is thwarted by his old friend U.S. Secret Service Agent Stackhouse. Apparently, the Service has already been at the scene, but of course they won't, or can't, disclose why.
Yet, one thing is clear. Nicki is caught up in something bigger than she knows. Someone or something has put her in the middle of it, and she is desperate to find out what's going on. Everyone is keeping secrets -- the government's witness, the court reporter, the judge, possibly a juror, and, apparently, the President of the United States.
Turns out, Nicki has an old connection with a witness, and his world spills over into hers in ways that endanger, infuriate and frighten her.
It is the truth. And it will change the world.
"This novel is based on real events and a gruesome murder in Washington, D.C., assigned to a friend of mine at the public defender's office, but this is no ordinary case," Thornton told "Good Morning America." "My novel has more twists than a Philly pretzel and an epic ending that you are not going to see coming, so grab your copy and a little bit of mustard and buckle up."
"You Will Know the Truth" is available now. Get started with an excerpt below.
News reports spared some, but not enough, of the particulars. Reporters dramatically described Mrs. Campbell as a grandmother of thirteen (though that was hardly news in that part of town) who died a slow, agonizing death at the hands of street thugs. Thugs who hadn't just killed her, but who taunted and humiliated her before God took her home. The medical examiner said Mrs. Campbell probably was alive through much of it. Widely reputed for his exacting work by the time he 'met' Mrs. Campbell, the ME said he had never seen so much internal organ damage in a human being who had not been crushed by heavy machinery. At the hearing, the ME tried to keep the description as clinical as possible, but the crime was so violent that even complicated medical terms couldn't temper its blow, and when he finished his testimony, people all over the courtroom were crying. One of the judge's law clerks got sick. It was not great for the defense.
The ignoble misery, and Stephen King-like gruesomeness of Mrs. Campbell's murder, bothered Nicki. It was objectively shocking. But Nicki was one of the best trial lawyers at the agency—full stop—and the agency, by law, did not turn down a case for its complexity, or general ickiness. Tall and slender, Nicki wore her hair close-cropped, almost clean-shaven—sort of an anti-afro—long before the style was popular. It suited her. It was no fuss, much like her personality, except for the cluster of silver bangles she donned on both wrists that clanged when she walked and sang when she talked with her hands. Some days, the days when she was not in court, they went halfway up her arms. She wore jeans to work, but like all the other public defenders, Nicki kept a suit in the office for court. Still, Nicki wore her jeans with a plain white t-shirt and a short, black leather jacket, winter or summer. She was opinionated and strong—gave you the impression there was nothing she couldn't do—and that was probably right. Nicki had high cheek bones, a warm smile which matched the charm that could take people by surprise, and good legs. Really good legs. She was whip smart, comfortable in her own dark brown skin, and she cursed. A lot. All the defenders cursed. It was part of being in the club, and a by-product of the ugly, violent world in which they operated. Nicki said "f---," a lot, in everyday language and as expression, and she was the one they'd made a wager about it at the office. Nicki's colleagues bet she would accidentally say "f---" in court one day, be held in contempt, and ordered to pay a fine, and one day she almost did. "Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury," Nicki had begun in her closing argument that day. "The government's only eyewitness told you a pretty tall tale today. Here is why you shouldn't believe it. Here is why you can't believe it. The government's only witness, the one witness the government has that puts my client anywhere near the scene, well, he was fu . . . I mean he was fouled up on drugs." The judge had lowered her head—she was smiling—but some of the jurors laughed out loud. It was pretty funny, everybody said, and though she hadn't actually said the word, Nicki's colleagues made her pay up anyway.
Here, in this case, Nicki figured if all the government had on her client was the ring, her client would not be lumped in with all the other defendants whose fingerprints and DNA were on the pipe. Still—Nicki knew—you never really know, especially in street crime cases. Defendants tend to leave things out when they are telling their lawyers what happened. "No more surprises," Nicki had told her client as they were preparing for the preliminary hearing. "If you lie to me again, I'm out."
"You can't do that," Miss Gray protested. "The judge will make you stay my lawyer. You're just a damn Fifth Streeter anyway." Miss Gray, the only woman among the four defendants in the case, was wrong about that. Nicki worked at the D.C. Public Defender Service, PDS, and it was nationally known for the quality of its lawyers and the significance of its cases. By statute, PDS was assigned the most heinous cases in the system. By reputation, Nicki was known as one of the best trial lawyers in the agency—full stop. "Don't bet on it," Nicki said getting up from the table. "Let's go, Shep." Shep was Nicki's investigator. He was already on his feet.
Okay, okay, OK," Miss Gray had said. "Tony's my man, you feel me?" "Tony Allen?" Miss Gray nodded. "Tony Allen? You're telling me two days before preliminary hearing that you got that ring from one of the other defendants?"
Nicki was furious. She knocked on the door of the holding cell and stepped out with Shep. "If Mrs. Campbell got that ring from one of the other defendants, well, that's more plausible than her finding it on the street or happening across it at a pawn shop." Shep nodded. "But it makes the connection to the killing closer than I want her, and it sure as shit won't help my motion to try her separately from these other heathens."
"I know. You were counting on a severance motion. Even without the ring, being tried with the other defendants will prejudice the case against Miss Gray."
"It's such a high burden under normal circumstances—prosecutors love to lump them in all together, and it helps the judge clear her docket faster," Nicki said. "F---." Severance motions are notoriously hard to win under the best of circumstances, and Nicki hadn't won hers. So, late in an unusually cold winter, in the nation's capital, Nicki Jo Lewis began trial in a case the city had not seen the likes of in almost five decades. There was no way for Nicki to know the trial would only be the beginning.
Excerpt courtesy of "You Will Know the Truth" by Leslie T. Thornton. Copyright (c) 2021 by the author and reprinted by permission of Sweet Read Publishing, LLC.