Accused by Lisa Scottoline is part of the Rosato & Associates legal thriller series featuring Mary DeNunzio (available October 29, 2013).
Everyone has an opinion of lawyers. That opinion usually depends on which side of the courtroom you are on. They're godsends if you win, if you lose, well that's another story.
If you are a lawyer like Mary Denuzio you try to find good in everyone. Sometimes that reasoning can cloud your judgment temporarily. When a sweet 13-year-old girl seeks help from her firm, Mary can't resist being drawn into her plight.
Mary’s heart went out to Allegra, but then again, her heart went out to everybody. She was more surprised when it stayed in her chest.
With logic thrown out the window, Mary follows her instinct into another murder case. All the evidence points to the guilt of a young black man; the police have blood evidence and a confession. Banking on a six-year-old memory of a then 7-year-old Allegra, Mary plunges deep into finding justice for the brutal murder of this aching little girl's sister.
Scottoline's latest novel brings her character, Mary Denuzio full circle. Mary first appeared in Scottoline's debut novel, Everywhere That Mary Went as a newly widowed trial layer trying to make her way up the corporate ladder to Partner at Rosato & Associates. In Accused, Mary achieves partner status and dates a dedicated man who she loves very much.
I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa Scottoline at a forensics event in her native Philadelphia. It was shortly after the release of her second book, Final Appeal. She is really a lot like Mary Dunizo warm, naturally charming and caring. She inspired me to keep writing towards my goal of getting published. I emailed her when my first short story sold and she personally answered with words of encouragement.
That genuine warm feeling carries over to her novels. I feel that part of her success is attributed to the realism shining through her characters. In her career as a mystery thriller author, she has kept up with the big boys for almost 20 years.
Mary brought up the rear, because she had to hug and kiss everybody good- bye, as was customary in South Philly, where hugs and kisses were like passports, required for all comings and goings.
Scottoline keeps south Philly close to her heart. She shows the best and worst of Philly emphasizing car parking situations relatable to Philly or any city where on street parking is a challenge. She includes circling the block for an hour, people setting out chairs and a mention of the “honor system” an unwritten law that “a man has the right to park in front of his own house”.
Scottoline can switch from humorist to serious on a dime is without missing a beat.
If you know her background as a trial lawyer she brings authenticity to Mary and the gang at Rosato and Associates.
Scottoline's characters relate to one another as only a huge dysfunctional Italian family can. There's a lot of emotion going on here. You can almost see what Thanksgiving dinner must be like at the Scottoline household.
Mary, Judy, Anthony, The Tonys, and her father crowded around the tiny kitchen table, eating, drinking, chattering away, and sitting hipto-replacement- hip in the cramped DiNunzio kitchen. Fresh basil and garlic scented the air, and steam rose from hot plates of homemade ravioli and peppery sausage. Everyone sweated into his food, but it would never occur to Mary’s parents to eat anything cooler, even in a Philadelphia summer, and Mary wouldn’t have it any other way. Whoever said you can’t go home again wasn’t Italian.
As her characters evolve from book to book, so do the plotlines. In Accused, Mary's acceptance as partner in Rosato & Associates leads to inner turmoil in her home life as well as on the job. Mary is forced to make some major decisions. Her boyfriend, Anthony complicates matters.
“I know we didn’t talk about this, but we always said that when you make partner, we’d talk about getting engaged, and now you made partner. In case you’re wondering, I did ask your father and mother for your hand, and they said yes. So did The Tonys.”
Mary smiled, touched. She could imagine the scene. There would be tears and hugs, like opera.
“Mary, I would be honored if you would wear that ring and be my wife.” Anthony’s dark eyes filmed, and he swallowed hard, his Adam’s apple going up and down above his open collar. “So I have a question to ask you, from my heart. Mary, will you marry me?
Loyalty plays a big part in the make up of Scottoline's characters. I think this trait carries over from her real life; dedication to her daughter, family, clients and fans.
More than anything, Allegra needed a friend, and Mary wasn’t about to abandon her.
Judy laughed. “It’s a difference of degree, and we can’t say for sure when an avid interest in something, whether it’s murder or bees, shades into obsession.”
“You sound checked out.” Mary turned onto a two- lane road, which was as many lanes as she was going to get out here. “Where’s your loyalty?”
“I’m still on board, but I have my doubts about her now.”
“Her own father slandered her.”
“He told us the truth.”
“He told us his view.”
Scottoline understands the delicate balance of a character's strengths and weaknesses as if they were put upon the Scales of Justice.
Even though it seems like Mary is heading for “Happily Ever After” don't be so sure. A quick peek at Scottoline's “Acknowledgments” section for Accused and I found the promise of more Rosato and Associates books in the works. Come to think of it, there are several interesting women working there.
The jury is still out on my opinion of lawyers. As far as Accused is concerned, it's a hit, case closed.
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Cindy Kerschner is an avid mystery fan, freelance writer and professional cook. You can learn about her through her website at http://www.cindysrecipesandwritings.com.