Real-life events are the catalyst for Allison Leotta's latest book.
Leotta, a former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C. who specialized in prosecuting sex crimes, domestic violence and crimes against children, developed the theme of her latest mystery thriller, "Discretion" (Touchstone 2012; $25), when a colleague worked on the case of Deborah Jeane Palfrey.
Palfrey, dubbed by the press as the D.C. Madam, ran a high-level escort service used by many top level government employees, including a senator from Louisiana. Convicted, Palfrey said she had 10,000 to 15,000 phone numbers of clients, many of them important powerbrokers in Washington, D.C.
Her body was found shortly afterwards.
“The police said she had hung herself,” says Leotta, who also wrote "Law of Attraction," named one of the best books of 2010 by Suspense Magazine. It is the first in the series about Assistant U.S. Attorney Anna Curtis. “The prosecutor in me said if the police say it’s a suicide, it’s a suicide. But the crime novelist in me said what about the phone numbers, what might have happened?’
The novel begins when a beautiful woman enters a congressman’s office for a tryst and then moments later is seen plunging to her death from the balcony outside of his office. Curtis is called in to handle the case and her investigation leads to Discretion, an upper echelon escort service catering to D.C.'s elite.
“When I was prosecutor,” says Leotta, “I worked with a lot of sex worker victims. It’s such a dangerous job.”
This background helped her with research for the book as did drawing upon friends in both the prosecutor role and police departments.
And though the book is fictional, some of what Leotta, a Harvard Law School graduate, discovered while researching the D.C. Madam case was almost unbelievable.
“One of the witnesses in the case was a high-level lawyer who also worked as a tester for the escort agency,” she says. “All the secrets going on were amazing.”
Though she is now writing full-time and taking care of her young children, Leotta at times misses being a prosecutor.
“Writing is my dream job,” she says noting that she is finishing up the third Curtis novel. “But I think there is no legal job in America more rewarding than being a prosecutor.”