Lily White by Susan Isaacs

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In Susan Isaac's most ambitious and dazzling novel to date, we are introduced to Lee White, a criminal defense lawyer practicing on Long Island. Into her life drifts Norman Torkelson, a career con man charged with strangling to death his latest mark. At first, as Lee explains to us, the case seems routine, the evidence overwhelming. Norman--manly, magnetic and morally reprehensible--is a man who crisscrosses America looking for patsies for his cruel marriage scam: Love 'em, liquidate their assets, leave 'em. Clearly, he murdered Bobette Frisch, the dumpy, sour 50-something bar owner who had fallen madly in love with him. But just as Lee is resigning herself to the inevitable "Guilty!" verdict, she begins to have doubts. What, after all, was Norman's motive? Why not do what he had done for the last 20 years: run and leave behind a broke and brokenhearted victim? Lee starts to wonder if her client is not only not guilty but also covering for the real killer and, in doing so, performing the first selfless act of his life.

As the Torkelson case unfolds, a second narrator chimes in to tell us the story behind the story: the tale of Lee's life. Born Lily White, Lee is a smart, pretty and privileged child coming of age on Long Island. Her parents have little time for her or her younger sister, devoted as they are to the pursuit of shallowness. Her mother, Sylvia, who looks like Lauren Bacall's twin sister with a mild eating disorder, is busy with the exhausting work of keeping up her wardrobe. Her father, Leonard Weissberg--Weiss--and finally White, is consumed by his chi-chi Manhattan fur salon, his model-bookkeeper mistress, and his obsession with the family next door, the old-money, oh-so-social Taylors.

When Lee marries Jazz Taylor, the scion of these blue-bloods, her life seems blessed. Suddenly she has her mother's approval, her father's love--and a sublime husband. No matter that she has to give up her dream job in the Manhattan DA's Office to move back to Long Island with him; that's what marriage is, a series of compromises made in the name of love. Isn't it?

Lily White masterfully interweaves the depths of deception surrounding the twisted Torkelson case with the stunning betrayals that devastate Lee's own life. With the characteristic intelligence and delicious, razor-sharp wit displayed in her previous bestsellers, such as After All These Years and Compromising Positions, Susan Isaacs has crafted an extraordinary novel about social mobility -- about what is phony and what is real. Lily White is the seamlessly executed story of the crimes committed in the name of the good life and the victims of these violations: Those like Bobette, who do not survive, those whose spirits are crushed, and the few, like Lee, who fight back--and find something better.


About Susan Isaacs

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Susan Isaacs began her literary career as an administrative assistant at Seventeen magazine. Freelance writing and writing political speeches for Long Island politicians filled her spare time while she was home raising her children in the 1970s, Her first novel, Compromising Positions was published in 1978 and adapted into a movie of the same title that starred Susan Sarandon and Raul Julia. Other novels include Almost Paradise, Magic Hour, After All These Years, and Lily White.
Published July 1, 1996 by Harpercollins. 459 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction, Romance. Fiction

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Joining the Long Island D.A.'s homicide department, Lee did find some comfort in a friendship with Will Stewart, the super-elegant head of the department, who held her hand as Lee adjusted to the strains of motherhood, cared for Jazz's Down's-syndromeinflicted younger brother, helped her younger ...

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Entertainment Weekly

Susan Isaacs' seventh beach-blankety novel, Lily White, interweaves two narratives: a mystery involving Long Island criminal defense lawyer Lee White and the earlier story of her life as Lily White, daughter of the social-climbing Weissbergs.

Apr 18 1997 | Read Full Review of Lily White

Entertainment Weekly

She delivers a double page-turner by interweaving two engrossing stories — a present mystery in which Long Island criminal defense lawyer Lee White defends a con man charged with murdering his latest mark, and the earlier story of Lee's life as Lily White, daughter of social-climbing parents ...

Jul 12 1996 | Read Full Review of Lily White

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