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Alexandra Shapiro
Presumed Guilty

Adult; Mystery/Thriller; (Publish)

Alexandra Shapiro's first novel, Presumed Guilty, tells the story of Emma Simpson, a successful portfolio manager running the Manhattan office of a big-time hedge fund. ​ March 14th, 2012 was a typical day for Emma. She followed her usual routine, interacting with coworkers and clients before returning to her quiet family home in the Hudson Valley, where she lives with her husband and two children. But more than a year later, Emma’s world is forever changed—all because of a short email she dashed off on her way home that day to simply support routine company practices. That email becomes the focal point of a criminal case brought by ambitious federal prosecutors. Presumed Guilty follows Emma’s journey as the target of a federal white-collar criminal prosecution. She must now fight to prove her innocence, protect her family, and preserve her reputation.
Shapiro draws on her experience as a criminal defense attorney in this gripping debut. New York hedge fund manager Emma Simpson commutes to her Manhattan office daily by train from her home in the Hudson Valley, leaving behind her husband and two children. When her firm schedules an outage in order to transition to a new server, Emma sends out a precautionary email reminding employees of the company’s document retention policy–but a reference in it to discarding investment idea notes lands her in the crosshairs of a tenacious federal prosecutor when the company’s Boston office is investigated for possible insider trading.

At first the prosecutors seem not to discover anything sinister, but her relief is short-lived when FBI agents storm her home and arrest her. She is forced to defend herself and her seemingly innocuous email against a lack of concrete evidence, with a lengthy, drawn-out trial that illuminates the stark realities of such an investigation. Shapiro’s expertise, notably her success in defending clients of criminal insider trading cases, shines through, providing great verisimilitude, convincing and fascinating detail, and a welcome sense of realism throughout, all without overburdening readers with technical jargon.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the novel is Shapiro’s emphasis on Emma as the victim, especially when media focus during insider trading cases often hints at–or outright presumes–the guilt of the accused in such cases. Shapiro has skilfully created a portrait of a woman who, though working in a high-powered position, is similar to many women trying to juggle career with family while facing the challenges of parenthood–and her attention to the issues Emma faces after her arrest, including family and financial stress, is emotionally resonant and makes the consequences of the investigation all the more disturbing. Backstories for the prosecutors’ motivations are compelling, delivering a well-rounded, intense legal thriller that will electrify readers.

Takeaway: An innocent woman attorney becomes the focus of a crusading prosecutor in this riveting, realistic legal thriller.

Great for fans of: Scott Turow, Stacey Abrams’s While Justice Sleeps.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A