When a beautiful young woman plummets to her death from the balcony of the U.S. Capitol, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anna Curtis is summoned to handle the case. The victim is a high-priced escorts, and the suspect is the District’s most powerful elected official. This case could make Anna’s career—or ruin it.
At the same time, Anna’s budding romance with Jack Bailey, the chief homicide prosecutor, is at a crossroads. Determined to gain respect in the office, Anna prefers to keep their relationship under wraps. The scrutiny that comes with the office’s most important case will inevitably expose their relationship, if it doesn’t destroy it first.
The investigation leads to Discretion, a high-end escort service that caters to D.C.’s elite. But with each break in the case the mystery deepens. And the further Anna ventures into D.C.’s red light underworld, the larger the target on her own back.
For twelve years, I prosecuted sex crimes, domestic violence, and other crimes as a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C. I saw the cases the press would glamorize – high-end escort services like the “D.C. Madam” and New York’s “Millionaire Madam.” But I also saw that both high-priced call girls and low-rent streetwalkers were among the most vulnerable of women to being raped, assaulted, and murdered. I wanted to understand the lives of these madams and their employees: why so many college girls choose such a high-risk route, the secret lives they have to juggle, the dangers they face every time they meet a client.
The case of the D.C. Madam particularly interested me. She operated a high-end escort service catering to politicians, diplomats, and wealthy businessmen in the nation’s capital. My office prosecuted and convicted her, but before she was sentenced, she committed suicide. There were plenty of people – wealthy, powerful men – with an incentive to shut her up. My sensible prosecutor side dismissed such speculation, but the crime novelist in me wondered if someone might have killed the madam, and how it might have been done.
About the same time, I visited the U.S. Capitol and walked through the Rotunda, where famous oil paintings of America’s birth cover the walls. In the paintings, hundreds of men are portrayed – but I saw only four women. Of the four, two are naked and on their knees. I started thinking about the sexual power dynamics that have surrounded our country from its founding, and which still surround us today. I started formulating the ideas that became DISCRETION: a novel. Those paintings in the Rotunda became part of my first chapter.
In researching the book, I was able to draw on my experiences working with sex workers within the criminal justice system – and former sex workers who now serve as victims’ advocates, helping others leave the business. I also spoke with additional law enforcement officials and social workers to view different angles of the sex trade. I was gratified by the candor with which people talked to me about the facts, the fantasies, and the fetishes that are serviced, and the methods that are employed in this often cut-throat business. In writing DISCRETION, my challenge wasn’t finding real-life material, but deciding how to explain details that might be shocking for readers to hear.
Allison Leotta was a federal sex-crimes prosecutor in Washington, D.C. for over a decade. In 2010, Simon & Schuster published her first novel, LAW OF ATTRACTION, which the Washington Post called “a racy legal thriller, taking on a still-taboo subject.” Suspense Magazine named it one of the best books of the year, and Library Journal gave it a starred review, calling it “riveting.” The ABA has named her blog, The Prime Time Crime Review, one of the best legal blogs in America. Allison is a graduate of Michigan State University and Harvard Law School.
To learn more about Allison, please visit her website.
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