Lisa Scottoline
March 28, 2024


Lisa Scottoline

Lisa Scottoline is a #1 bestselling and Edgar Award-winning author of 33 novels. Lisa’s books are book-club favorites, and she and her daughter Francesca Serritella have hosted an annual Big Book Club Party for over a thousand readers at her Pennsylvania farm, for the past twelve years. Lisa has been President of Mystery Writers of America and she reviews fiction and non-fiction for the New York Times, Washington Post, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. She also writes a weekly column with her daughter for The Philadelphia Inquirer entitled Chick Wit, a witty take on life from a woman’s perspective, which have been collected in a bestselling series of humorous memoirs.

Q. The Truth about the Devlins combines familial ties with the intensity of legal drama. How did you navigate intertwining these elements, and what impact do you hope it has on your readers?

Lisa: Honestly, I want everything, I want the reader to be entertained, to turn the pages, to be a little breathless about what’s going to happen next, and even to cry. That’s what I love about our genre, that it can bring macro elements like questions of law, justice and morality, but at the same time focus on the micro level, like the combustible dynamics in any family. I couldn’t feel luckier or more blessed to be writing suspense.


Q. The story pivots around John’s startling murder confession. Could you share your thought process in crafting this critical turning point and its implications for the unfolding plot?

Lisa: The hook of the book is that the Golden Boy in the family commits a murder and asks the Ne’er-Do-Well Brother to help him hide the body. The idea just came to me one day, and I loved it because honestly I think all of us who write crime fiction are writing into a time when questions of law and justice are extremely complex. It’s hard to tell who are the good guys and who are the bad guys anymore, and I dealt with that in my previous novel WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BENNETTS, where I had the character actually say that there are “good bad guys” and “bad good guys.” That ironic wrench carries through in THE TRUTH ABOUT THE DEVLINS, so expectations that we have for each other in a family are turned upside-down, on their head. I really thought a lot about the way families work and how the early roles we get can stifle us in so many ways, since they don’t enable us to grow. I also wanted to explore a deeply flawed hero, whom I happen to have a major crush on, so there’s that. I like TJ Devlin because I really think he’s a man for our times – he’s in recovery, not only from alcoholism, but from all of the mistakes he’s made along the way. All of us suffer from self-inflicted wounds, I myself am divorced twice. (It was the marriage that was the wound, not the divorce lol.) But I think the coolest thing in this novel and really any good novel is to watch a hero struggle and see how he gets out of it, if he does.


Q. Exploring themes like deception, justice, and familial breakdowns is a complex task, especially in a thriller context. How do you manage to keep these serious themes engaging without losing the novel’s thrilling essence?

Lisa: That’s very kind of you to say, and I’ll give you the nitty gritty answer because I really want to encourage anyone who wants to write to please get started. And the answer is the editing process. I never write with an outline, I just have an idea and start writing, and each chapter answers the question what would logically happen next? Amazingly, it turns out that you can write a whole novel that way, that you will be in a state of anxiety most of the time. I’ve written 35 novels that way and can’t do it any other way. So you just tell yourself the story and by the end you go back and begin to edit and that’s when the pairing down happens so that all of these elements that you probably spend too much time on get trimmed up and slimmed down and the story becomes more supple and fleet. I always say to myself, get it down, then get it good.


Q. Throughout The Truth about the Devlins, TJ evolves significantly, especially in his role as an investigator. What was your strategy for depicting this evolution, and what were the most challenging aspects of showing his growth?

Lisa: This is a really good question because TJ Devlin has dug himself into a pretty deep hole, and, like a lot of dysfunctional people, he leaves a trail of pissed off friends, lovers, and family members in his wake. I myself have known people like that, and it’s very hard to repair relationships and not many people get it right. Alcoholics Anonymous is a wonderful program, and TJ is a recovering alcoholic, and it’s so interesting to me that the program itself asks its members to make amends to those they have wronged. So the question for me in THE TRUTH ABOUT THE DEVLINS was the balance I had to strike between making TJ believably flawed, but not so flawed that the reader would hate his guts. I really loved him despite his flaws, and I won’t spoil anything, but I like the ending as well. I think it all rings emotionally true, and that’s what really matters, in any novel.


Q. Can you share a particular scene or aspect of the book that you found most enjoyable or fulfilling to write, and what made it stand out for you?

Lisa: This will sound immodest, but I just got the finished copy and I read the first chapter again, and I truly think it’s the best first chapter I have written in my life. As I’ve mentioned above, it’s a scene in which the Golden Boy brother tells TJ that he has committed a murder and asks TJ to help him hide the body. So the predicament is clear, and it’s a compelling one, but most importantly, it’s told in TJ’s point of view and TJ is a clever, funny guy. I love that in characters just as much as I love it in people. Smart people are funny and TJ is completely lovable, even though he is basically admitting that he would have no trouble hiding a dead body for his brother. And TJ’s voice is engaging, and I knew he had to be, because there’s a lot of tough twists and turns in this novel, as well as some straight-up violence, and so the whole book is on his shoulders. I think he carried it off.


Q. What’s next?

Lisa: Mum’s the word!!!

Lisa Scottoline's Latest

The Truth about the Devlins - Lisa Scottoline

The Truth About The Devlins

TJ Devlin is the charming disappointment in the prominent Devlin family, all of whom are lawyers at their highly successful firm—except him. After a stint in prison and rehab for alcoholism, TJ can’t get hired anywhere except at the firm, in a make-work job with the title of investigator.

But one night, TJ’s world turns upside down after his older brother John confesses that he murdered one of their clients, an accountant he’d confronted with proof of embezzlement. It seems impossible coming from John, the firstborn son and Most Valuable Devlin.

TJ plunges into the investigation, seizing the chance to prove his worth and save his brother. But in no time, TJ and John find themselves entangled in a lethal web of deception and murder. TJ will fight to save his family, but what he learns might break them first.

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