Lady Killer

Lisa Scottoline
2008, Suspense
Harper, $25.95, 368 pages, Amazon ASIN 0060833203
Part of a series

Grade: B+
Sensuality: Subtle

I've been reading Lisa Scottoline's legal thrillers off and on from the very beginning. Some work better for me than others, and Lady Killer is one of the best I've read in a while. For the first time in several years, Scottoline revisits the attorneys of Rosato & Associates with a tale that forces lawyer Mary DiNunzio to finally face her past and lay old ghosts to rest.

Mary DiNunzio grew up in South Philly, the child of Italian immigrants, and she draws much of her client base from the old neighborhood. Still, the last person she expects to see is her high school nemesis, Trish Gambone. Trish and her sidekicks bullied and mocked Mary mercilessly throughout school and Mary still carries more of those old wounds than she would like to admit.

After high school, while Mary made good and got an education, Trish took up with a drug dealer employed by the local mob. Her old nemesis has now come to Mary because this same live-in boyfriend has started to beat and terrorize her and Trish fears for her life. Her boyfriend has announced that he has a surprise for her and Trish is afraid of what it will be. She comes to Mary seeking help, but disappears shortly thereafter.

Despite what her common sense tells her, Mary cannot help feeling responsible for Trish, so she joins the search for her. Along the way, Mary learns a lot about Trish and her boyfriend, while also coming face to face with the unburied ghosts of her past. As Mary works her way through the twists and turns of Trish's disappearance, she also starts to build herself up and finally detach from the secrets she has harbored since high school.

Normally, I wouldn't have a lot of patience for a person who still hasn't dealt with their hangups from high school. However, in this story, the old high school world is very relevant to the story and some of Mary's revelations are the sort of thing that a reader would not expect a person to snap out of right away. Though fragile in some ways, Mary has a certain spark to her and a growing strength throughout the story that makes her a primarily sympathetic character. As an added bonus, having seen the widowed Mary in a few of Scottoline's earlier novels, I enjoyed seeing her find a real gem of a love interest.

Though it has a romantic subplot, Lady Killer is a suspense novel first and foremost. While some of the humor and the reintroduction of various characters felt a little forced at the beginning, the book quickly hits its stride and delivers a plot full of twists and turns that will truly keep readers guessing. Fans of legal thrillers will enjoy this cleverly plotted tale, and I would highly recommend much of Scottoline's backlist as well.

-- Lynn Spencer

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