Paperback: 384pp

Publisher: Lightning Books

Launch date: August 2017

ISBN: 9781785632723

The Pinocchio Brief

Abi Silver



‘A first-rate courtroom drama’ – Daily Mail

SHORTLISTED: Waverton Good Read Award

A 15-year-old schoolboy is accused of the brutal murder of one of his teachers.

His lawyers – the guarded veteran, Judith Burton, and the energetic young solicitor, Constance Lamb – 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 courtroom thriller which confronts our assumptions about truth and our increasing reliance on technology.


“God, Raymond. You take everything so literally. Can’t you tell when someone is lying to you?”

Jamie said that to me after Physics this morning. Jamie is my friend, my best friend, my only friend, I think. We share a room. He touched my arm as he spoke, just a tap, a little above the elbow. I don’t like being touched. I’ve told him that before but I didn’t remind him this time. “Sometimes you have to accept things you don’t like because that’s how the world works.” That’s what mum said the day I came here.



“God, Raymond. You take everything so literally. Can’t you tell when someone is lying to you?”

Jamie said that to me after Physics this morning. Jamie is my friend, my best friend, my only friend, I think. We share a room. He touched my arm as he spoke, just a tap, a little above the elbow. I don’t like being touched. I’ve told him that before but I didn’t remind him this time. “Sometimes you have to accept things you don’t like because that’s how the world works.” That’s what mum said the day I came here.

So I am trying, to accept things, that is, and I know he didn’t mean anything by it; just a bit of friendly emphasis. Touching my arm when he said it. And that’s just how the world works. In fact, I’m grateful now that he did because it made me remember what he said and I was looking for something new to pique my interest. And now I have it, the perfect topic to research: lying.

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.

I take to Google and enter the word “lie” and it prompts me on to various options. I choose “lie detection”. I immediately discover that some people claim they have a “sixth sense” which allows them to know when other people are lying. The Chief Constable of Wandsworth, Chief Constable Sidley, said that on the 10 o’clock news only yesterday.

“I always know when they’re lying. It’s my sixth sense,” he said and nodded solemnly at the camera. I don’t believe him. If it were an animal (not a human – I know humans are animals) then I might understand it. The way that those Medical Detection Dogs can sniff out cancer cells or that Cricetomys gambianus, the African giant pouched rat, can find land mines in Tanzania. If someone told me a pig knew when a person was lying then I might believe that, but not Chief Constable Sidley.

That stuff doesn’t really interest me, though; hunch, premonition, gut feeling. I want to find out how you know when someone is lying, really know, not just guess or suspect. Not surprisingly, there is lots of literature on the subject.

My last time-filler was Jupiter, anything and everything to know about Jupiter. My favourite fact about Jupiter is that its dust clouds are made up of ammonia and sulphur. The smell must be awful. Except that humans can’t just go there and smell it. It’s -145°C on the way in and then rises steadily as you get closer to the surface, so we would probably be dead before we smelt anything at all, of course.

My second favourite fact about Jupiter is that the Great Red Spot, a storm covering an area three times larger than the Earth, has been raging for 350 years. Imagine that, a fire burning for generations with no one to put it out.

Yes, Jupiter occupied me for around two months before I pretty much knew everything anyone had written. I sincerely hope that this will keep me busy for longer.

Perhaps I should introduce myself to you before I just delve in: Raymond Maynard, aged 15 years and 9 months, 3 days, 6 hours and 22 minutes. That felt a little strange because I don’t do it very often; tell people who I am, that is. I prefer to exist quietly, to take things in rather than spew them out. In fact, you are probably my first audience.

What do I look like? I am one metre 81 without my shoes. I think that’s tall although, of course, “tall” is a relative concept. “Gosh, he’s tall for his age”; that’s my first memory of anyone commenting on my height, from the lady behind the desk of the doctor’s surgery when I went to have my tonsils looked at. The doctor said that I would have to have them removed. And I have brown hair. That’s it, really.

And what do I like? What I like are facts, lots of them, especially if they have numbers attached to them. And I can remember them, all of them; the birthdays of all the boys in my class, the registration numbers of their parents’ cars from visiting days, the numbers in the bar code of a packet of Jaffa cakes.

So, in California, in the USA (did you know that more turkeys are raised in California than in any other US state?), they have developed a product which measures the magnetic activity in your brain. A scientist there says that when you lie, there is increased activity in the superior prefrontal, anterior cingulate gyri and the parietal cortex areas of the brain. He says this is because we are all naturally honest and so the brain has to work harder to suppress the truth. He claims 91.3% success. And to find out, all you have to do is set up an electromagnetic force around the skull of some willing participant, ask a few questions and watch what happens.

Again I’m not convinced; the research is based on the premise that humans are inherently honest. Is this really right? All humans? When Marnie said she hadn’t visited last week because she had a cold I knew that was a lie because I saw from her Facebook page that she was out at a party and she looked pretty fine in all the photos. I wouldn’t have minded if she’d just said. But that proves my point. If my sister lies so easily, then I’m sure other people do it all the time without it causing “extra brain activity”.

Voice Stress Analysis. That sounds more promising. Eighteen years of research have led to the conclusion that people’s voices sound different when they lie, and this time the researcher claims 93.4% success rates. Admirable. But this seems obvious to me and I am sure I could have worked it out in far less time.

What else is there? “A connection between lying and increased pupil size”, a “Facial Action Coding System” and also “how long it takes the subject to begin answering questions”. Liars take longer to begin speaking, apparently. The list of detection techniques is lengthy. This is going to keep me occupied for quite some time.”

From The Pinocchio Brief


‘Intelligently conceived and cleverly constructed – topical, relevant and engaging’

Ted Childs, creator of Kavanagh QC

‘An evocative and gripping thriller, where present day meets the technology of the near future. Abi Silver raises startling questions about the dependence and interdependence of technology in our lives in this pacy courtroom drama’

Maha Khan Phillips, author of The Curse of Mohenjodaro

‘You may not have heard of Abi Silver, but if her new book The Pinocchio Brief is anything to go by, you soon will have done’

Jewish News

‘I can‘t recommend Abi Silver’s courtroom drama novels enough’

Susan A. King


‘A refreshing debut from a former lawyer – a first-rate courtroom drama’

Daily Mail

‘Raymond Maynard, a precocious 15-year-old schoolboy, is accused of the brutal murder of one of his teachers. Silver, a former solicitor, conjures up a shock for his defence team: the boy’s testimony will be judged by a machine. If this sounds far-fetched, it’s not. Swingeing cuts to legal aid budgets around the world are resulting in ever increasing digitalisation. Silver’s taut thriller provides ample food for thought as the defence team confront the implications of machines dispensing justice’

The Times

‘Pinocchio is the name of a newly developed device that detects lies and which the government has decided to use in law courts. It is supposed to perceive and interpret facial expression and body language, its conclusions providing more accurate judgements than any jury could reach. Regarding this machine as infallible is a dangerous and plausible idea that is central to this fascinating tale... This is a good read and an excellent first novel’

Literary Review

‘A quirky and charming debut novel that combines modern technology with a good old-fashioned courtroom drama’

Irish Independent

‘A legal thriller with a neat angle and loads of twists: I cannot tell a lie, this is an excellent read’

Sunday Sport ****

‘There’s plenty of buzz around this debut courtroom thriller inspired by a true story involving controversial lie-detecting technology. A troubled teenage schoolboy is accused of murdering one of his teachers. His lawyers – old hand Judith and young whippersnapper Constance – soon discover nasty secrets about his school. But will Judith’s questionable past also be revealed when new state-of-the-art lie-detection software is used on the case? The unexpected twist is a jaw-dropper’

Saga Magazine

The Pinocchio Brief will keep you gripped throughout and has a satisfying twist in the tail. ... [It is] an exceptionally accomplished debut novel’

WI Life

‘Rumpole of the Bailey, Kavanagh QC, Perry Mason – famous fictional seen-it-all, heard-it-all lawyers. Joining their ranks this summer is Judith Burton, heroine of The Pinocchio Brief… Abi Silver’s debut novel is an enjoyable, at times compelling, thriller-cum-courtroom drama that asks serious questions about truth, lying and how the justice system should establish one from the other’

Jewish Chronicle

‘It is a very good courtroom story about a young schoolboy who is accused of murder, the school where the crime is set and the lawyers who defend him. The characters are well-drawn and it is a good, pacy tale’

Law Society Gazette

‘Stunning debut novel – I cannot wait to read Abi Silver’s next one’

Claire Knight, CrimeBookJunkie *****

‘The Pinocchio Brief is a cracking courtroom drama but the murder story is also really well thought out. Shades of classic Christie with the murder in the school, a small suspect pool who all have very different backgrounds and each of the suspects has a reason for bumping off the teacher. This is the type of book I love to read. Seek it out’

Grab This Book

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

If These Books Could Talk

‘Well constructed, instantly compelling...the story had me completely hooked throughout on some deceptively simple questions’

Bookshine and Readbows

‘The Pinocchio Brief is a gripping thriller which really challenges us to think about the way we present the truth... You’ll be drawn in as successfully as any John Grisham courtroom drama. A great holiday read’

On the Shelf Books

‘The Pinocchio Brief really hit the sweet spot: addictive, intelligent and with some truly memorable characters. A real page-turner while being a brilliantly observant look at human nature and the vagaries of the legal system. Simply a cracking read’

Liz Loves Books

‘The Pinocchio Brief is thrilling and complex, quite different to anything else I've read recently. The idea of the Pinocchio machine feels entirely plausible, and there is a refreshing authenticity to this story. It is clear that the author's legal background adds depth. Extremely well written, this novel keeps the reader on their toes and is a fine debut. I look forward to reading more from Abi Silver’

Random Things Through My Letterbox

‘The crime market is flooded with psychological thrillers and domestic noir, so it was a welcome change to read The Pinocchio Brief, which is a courtroom drama and legal investigation. Abi Silver has a great knack of describing her characters. The premise of the novel – a lie-detecting device used in courtroom trials – is an interesting and intriguing one. Silver certainly kept me guessing and knows how to plot a twisty book. I'll be interested to see what she comes up with next’

Off-the-Shelf Books

‘I loved this book. The Pinocchio Brief is an excitingly realistic portrayal of court room drama, and I was completely sucked in. If you’re looking for a book to grip you this summer, The Pinocchio Brief is the one to read’

Delightful Book Reviews ****

‘I wasn’t able to put the book down’

RemiVFoliage ****

The Pinocchio Brief should be your next read if you love thrillers. I was totally glued to this page-turning story’

I Read Novels

‘Very impressed. Recommended’

Promoting Crime Fiction

‘I loved the twists and turns in this book. If crime is your thing, this would be one of the first books I’d recommend’

Rea’s Reads

‘Thoroughly recommended’

Rachel Read It


Would artificial intelligence put an end to miscarriages of justice or simply cause new problems? Ayo Onatade of the crime e-zine Shots looks at the ethical issues raised in The Pinocchio Brief.

Abi Silver assures Crime Time there is nothing far-fetched about the revolutionary lie-detection technology in The Pinocchio Brief.

Abi talks to her old law firm Allen & Overy about the transition from litigator to crime writer.

‘For me New Scientist magazine is often a catalyst...As for the legal input, I am a lawyer by profession, so I have truly taken the ‘write what you know’ mantra on board.’ Abi tells about her research process.


Abi Silver

Abi Silver grew up in Leeds in a traditional Jewish family.

Watching Granada TV’s Crown Court in between lessons inspired her to study Law at Girton College, Cambridge. She worked for international law firms in London before spending five years in Israel, where her husband Daniel was posted. During her time there, as well as raising three sons, she completed an MBA by distance learning, learned Hebrew and pottery on the wheel and began to write fiction, usually late at night.

Her first courtroom drama featuring the legal duo Judith Burton and Constance Lamb, The Pinocchio Brief, was published by Lightning Books in 2017 and was shortlisted for the Waverton Good Read Award. Since then she has published five more in the acclaimed series – The Aladdin Trial, The Cinderella Plan, The Rapunzel Act, The Midas Game and The Ambrosia Project. Several have been Sunday Times Crime Club picks.

Based in Hertfordshire, she continues to work part-time as a legal consultant.

Read more about Abi and her work at