June 10, 2002 12:00 PM

By Jodi Picoult

As an assistant district attorney in rural Maine, Nina Frost has prosecuted her fair share of child molestation cases. Few resulted in significant jail time, and all were traumatic to the young victims. So when Nina’s own 5-year-old son is sexually abused by a priest (talk about ripped from the headlines), she turns vigilante and guns down the accused man. Vengeance, she feels, was her duty as a mother—until she learns she got the wrong guy.

Marred by unlikely plot twists and a truly far-fetched ending, Picoult’s ninth novel still manages to engage, thanks to the author’s skill at creating fully realized characters and raising troubling questions about the limits of the law. “I did what I had to,” Nina insists. Crazy thinking—but it’s to Picoult’s credit that you almost believe Nina is right. (Pocket, $25)

Bottom Line: Flawed but fine

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