July 08, 1996 12:00 PM

by Susan Isaacs

Lee (Lily) White is a tough-talking, marshmallow-hearted criminal lawyer whose latest client, scam artist Norman Torkelson, charms lonely women and steals their money. He is charged with strangling his latest mark.

In alternating chapters, Isaacs develops two different but equally compelling stories: the excessively violent murder case and White’s family’s pelts-to-riches rise through the social classes. Lee, it turns out, is the offspring of Sylvia and Leonard Weiss-burg, who flee Queens (recasting their Frosty Furs business as Le Fourreur) and change their name to White long before they change their address to a haute WASP community on New York’s Long Island.

At age 7, Lee understood “what really mattered to her parents: clothes first, furniture second.” As an adult, White accepts neither her slippery client’s supposed guilt nor her father’s reverence for their old-money neighbors, the Taylors of Hart’s Hill, even after she falls in love with their son Jasper.

Murder, sex and humor make for a wickedly entertaining combination in Isaacs’s trenchant telling. Lily White is a lot like an overstuffed Christmas stocking: You hate to get to the bottom, but you simply can’t wait. (HarperCollins, $25)

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