In the winter of 1996, Janet Malcolm received a letter from a stranger - a disbarred lawyer named Sheila McGough, who had recently been released from prison, and who wrote that she had been convicted of crimes she had not committed. Malcolm decided to look into the case, and this book - a dazzling work of journalism as well as a searching meditation on character, on the law, and on the incompatibility of narrative with truth - is the product of her growing belief that a miscarriage of justice had taken place. Sheila McGough was prosecuted and convicted because the government (and then the jury) interpreted her zealous representation of a con-man client named Bob Bailes as collaboration in his fraud. Malcolm's close readings of court records and her interviews with lawyers and businessmen connected with the case give a picture of American law and American cupidity that is startling in its pitiless specificity. And her portrait of Sheila McGough - "a woman of almost preternatural honesty and decency, " as well as maddening literal-mindedness and discursiveness - brings an unconventional new heroine into vivid being.