The Pinocchio Brief – Abi Silver

*I received a free copy of this book, with thanks to the author and Eye and Lightning Books. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*

Blurb: A schoolboy accused of a brutal murder. A retired lawyer with secrets to hide…

A 15-year-old schoolboy is accused of the murder of one of his teachers. His lawyers, the guarded veteran, Judith, and the energetic young solicitor, Constance, begin a desperate pursuit of the truth, revealing uncomfortable secrets about the teacher and the school. But Judith has her own secrets which she risks exposing when it is announced that a new lie-detecting device, nicknamed Pinocchio, will be used during the trial. And is the accused, a troubled boy who loves challenges, trying to help them or not?

The Pinocchio Brief is a gripping, very human thriller which confronts our assumptions about truth and reliance on technology.

The Pinocchio Brief is a well-constructed courtroom thriller with an instantly compelling hook: what if there was a computer program that could read facial expressions and body language to confirm whether or not you are lying?

Abi Silver mixes some psychology, legal drama, a murder mystery and technological morality issues together here to produce an entertaining story which raises some intriguing questions about the nature of lying and the detail of how deceit works.

I found it very plausible that the Pinocchio lie-detection technology in the story is created with entertainment in mind – in the form of reality tv shows or personal apps – but then immediately co-opted into the legal system as a means of determining innocence… or guilt. This chain of events very much mirrors real-life technologies, created with benign intentions, then weaponised. We get a lot of the mechanics of how the program is tweaked and tested, through a flashback from one of the main characters, Judith Burton, who reluctantly got involved in its early stages and is not best pleased to see it resurface in the courtroom at the same time that she does!

The story has two main characters (three, if you count the murder suspect, Raymond Maynard), Constance and Judith, who form a typical odd-couple pairing of young, idealistic lawyer and dragged-out-of-retirement, cynical but experienced lawyer. I found it hard to really get to grips with either of them, as they are both quite guarded and defensive, so that even the reader is held at arm’s length from their true feelings. Ironically, I found Raymond easier to ‘like’, as we get quite a bit of insight into his actions, thoughts and feelings from the sections from his viewpoint.

To be honest, though, liking the characters was pretty irrelevant to my enjoyment of the story, which had me completely hooked throughout on some deceptively simple questions: is Raymond lying? Who killed the teacher, and why? Why is Judith so reluctant to face Pinocchio (again)?

Incidentally, the fairytale aspect in the titles of this series, combined with the modern murder/court investigation was an irresistible combination to me, and whilst the link to Pinocchio was more thematic than plot or character-related, I still love the whole concept of the old tale and the new setting.

For fans of legal thrillers, this is definitely one to watch, and I’m going to pick up The Aladdin Trial and The Cinderella Plan to see where Burton and Lamb go next in their legal investigations!

To Lie. Alternative words I could use: to tell untruths, to perjure oneself, to have somebody on, to fib, to tell stories, to be economical with the truth.
Dictionary definition? “To say something that is not true in a conscious effort to deceive somebody.”
Connected words: dishonesty, deceit, fraud, untruthfulness, corruption, treachery, duplicity, cheating and trickery.

– Abi Silver, The Pinocchio Brief



Find more from Abi Silver at her website here, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

The Pinocchio Brief is available on Amazon right now.

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