The Female Grisham-- Leotta publishes her second legal thriller

By Kurt Anthony Krug

Legal News

The "D.C. Madam" scandal served as a "jumping off" point for Farmington Hills native Allison Leotta's latest legal thriller "Discretion" (Touchstone $25), which is slated for a July 3 release.

"As a prosecutor, I handled a lot of cases where the victims were prostitutes," explained Leotta, a former sex crimes prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia. "I saw on a firsthand basis how dangerous their lives were, especially some college girl getting into the business thinking it's a quick, easy way to make money, but that's really far from the truth. I wanted to paint that picture realistically. What is it really like? What are the dangers? What are the unsavory things that have to happen? I didn't want to glamorize it at all. I hope I hit that chord in 'Discretion.'"

The "D.C. Madam" scandal came to light in 2006, centering on Deborah Jane Palfrey, alias the D.C Madam, who owned and operated the Washington, D.C.-based escort agency Pamela Martin and Associates. Her escorts, many of whom just recently graduated from college or had professional 9-to-5 day jobs, charged as much as $300/hour. Palfrey made more than $2 million in a 13-year period. This case received plenty of media attention, including ABC's 20/20 news magazine.

On April 15, 2008, Palfrey was convicted of racketeering, money laundering, and using the mail for illegal purposes. Rather than face 55 years in prison, Palfrey committed suicide by hanging herself. Police found handwritten suicide notes. The autopsy report concluded Palfrey's death was a suicide, contrary to conspiracy theories appearing on the Internet.

"I was fascinated by the case," said Leotta. "I was interested in the lives of the women who decided to become escorts, what it was like for them at the time, what the decision was like, and how it has affected their lives going forward--two years after they graduated from college and 20 years after they graduated from college--how that secret has played out in their lives. I was fascinated hearing about that testimony. Then when the madam died, it was tragic on a case-level for many reasons, but as a crime-writer, it also raised a question."

"My logical prosecutor side thought it was a very sad, tragic way for the case to end. However, the crime-writer in me was wondering could it actually have been a homicide? There were a lot of powerful people who had an incentive to shut her up."

The novel occurs in Washington, D.C. where a beautiful young woman falls to her death from the balcony of a home belonging to a powerful Congressman. To make things worse for this politician, who's in the middle of a hard primary fight, the woman was one of the city's highest-paid escorts. This scandal could cost him the election.

Leading the investigation is Assistant U.S. Attorney Anna Curtis, a sex crimes prosecutor introduced in "Law of Attraction," Leotta's debut novel. Anna's investigation leads her to Discretion, a high-end escort service catering to D.C.'s rich and powerful.

Leotta's e-short-story, "Ten Rules For A Call Girl," serves as a prequel to "Discretion," focusing on the escort prior to her death.

Critics have called Leotta "the female John Grisham."

"I love John Grisham's books," said Leotta. "I'm happy to bring the female perspective to the table. It's an honor to be called that."

Published: Mon, Jul 2, 2012

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