Why do I love Lisa Scottline’s mysteries featuring attorney Mary DiNunzio? A major factor has to be that I relate to her Italian-American upbringing. All that talk about Sunday “gravy” – tomato sauce to outsiders – brings me back to my childhood when those delicious aromas would fill our home. Then there’s the dented coffee pot – the percolator – that will never, for a certain percentage of the population – replace Keurig. And then it’s the dynamics of the close-knit neighborhood where everyone knows everyone else’s business and the “moms” look out for all the children, even when they are grown and have families of their own.
But another reason I love Scottoline’s mysteries is that she creates memorable characters and intricate plots. We first met Mary nearly ten years ago in Scottoline’s Everywhere That Mary Went, when the young attorney was fighting to make partner at her Philadelphia firm but had to contend with a stalker who threatened more than her livelihood. Since then, Mary has made partner at Rosato & DiNunzio, handled important cases, and solved several mysteries. She also married Anthony and they are expecting their first child.
In Feared, the lovely shower that Mary’s friends at the law firm planned for her is interrupted when she and Bennie Rosato are served with a complaint. The firm is being sued for reverse discrimination for failing to hire men. Although Rosato & DiNunzio have a male associate, John Foxman, he makes the critical mistake of telling a male applicant that the firm discriminates against men. In fact, Bennie, Mary, and the other firm partner, Judy Carrier, have never shied away from identifying the firm as an all-female shop. Now that declaration is coming back to bite them. Mary’s nemesis, Niccolò Machiavelli (and, yes, he claims to be a bona fide descendant), is behind the lawsuit. Having lost an important case to Mary, she suspects that he is out for revenge and has actually found three men to apply for jobs and sue when they were not hired. The lawsuit threatens not only to destroy the firm, but decimate the personal finances of Mary, Bennie, and Judy since they are targeted as individuals.
Bennie convinced Mary and Judy to hire an outside attorney to fight for them. Roger Vitez dresses like Steve Jobs and claims never to have lost a malpractice case for the lawyers he has represented. But when the bodies begin to pile up, Mary realizes that more than Roger’s strategies will be needed to fend off the lawsuit and the killer. In other words, it’s back to the neighborhood.
Along the way, we feel Mary’s pain as she attempts to chase a killer while trying not to be slowed down by her pregnancy. Anthony, for his part, is in Mary’s corner, but concern for the baby has him begging Mary to step back, something not in her Italian-American DNA.
Another great Scottoline outing. Now time for some pasta.
Top photo: Bigstock