The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.
Lisa Scottoline deserves a high five for her latest novels Damaged and Exposed. These back-to-back homeruns hit at reader’s heartstrings with her gripping and riveting storylines and characters. These stories will not disappoint fans having the traditional trademarks of fast-paced action combined with an emotional gravity.
Within both books is an intense fight for justice where Scottoline clearly explains the legal and ethical issues, intertwining it throughout the story. The details are presented in a way that is clear to any non-lawyer, without making it seem like an info-dump. But the strength of the novels is the characters that the readers get engaged with early on in the story. Not only the main ones, law partners Mary DiNunzio and Bennie Rosato, but the supporting cast as well. Who would not want to be a part of Mary’s world, her loving and caring parents as well as the extended family, the Italian community? The antagonists in each story give lawyers a bad name. They are controlling, hollow, and want to win at all costs, not to mention their attempts to hit on their former classmates.
Both plots are so gripping readers will not want to put the books down. In Damaged, released last year with the paperback version out August 1st,a ten-year-old child, Patrick, has fallen under the radar of the government agencies. His needs are not being met regarding dyslexia, abuse in a public school by a teacher’s aide, and having to endure classmates’ bullying. Making matters worse the teacher’s aide filed a lawsuit that alleges Patrick attacked him with a pair of scissors. Willing to defend him, Mary counter sues and through her investigative process finds that the public school district offers no support to him. Mary becomes his champion, willing to take on all, lobbying to get Patrick transferred to a more appropriate private special educational school. In her struggle to save Patrick, Mary finds herself fighting her associates, her fiancé, and social services, as well as the opposing counsel Nick Machiavelli (aka the Dark Prince), who is determined to win a settlement, despite the emotional cost to the 10-year-old boy.
Scottoline enjoys writing about children. “I think sometimes in fiction children are not really differentiated; although, today we are more aware of children’s disabilities and illnesses. These children need to be given the spotlight with my job making sure that the issue is as real as possible. In essence blurring the line between fiction and non-fiction. Patrick became an introverted and inward little boy because the dyslexia became an important aspect to his development. I want readers to imagine what it is like for a child when he does not get the programming that he needs or is entitled to within a public school.”
Exposed, the latest just released book, also has an engrossing storyline. Childhood friend, Simon Pensiera, who is more like family, requests Mary’s help. He wants to file a wrongful-termination case against his employer, OpenSpace, because his boss, Todd Eddington, fired him when his daughter Rachel’s medical expenses rose into the stratosphere. The problem, her partner, Bennie, represents Dumbarton Industries, OpenSpace’s parent company, so there’s an obvious conflict of interest. To make matters worse, Dumbarton’s CEO Nate Lence files a retaliatory defamation suit seeking $2 million from the newly unemployed Simon and a misconduct complaint against Mary. The suspense increases after a major plot twist that has both partners reevaluating their respective stances as the case heads off into an unexpected direction that includes a dangerous cover-up.
Having been a lawyer herself Scottoline allows readers to get the nuances of the justice system. “I always ask the question, does law lead to justice? With both books I wanted to show if you really follow the law it might not lead to the result you want. In Exposed the two law partners, Mary DiNunzio and Bennie Rosato, had what appeared to be a conflict of interest. Bennie represented the parent company and Mary was suing the subsidiary. I thought there must be an easy straight ethical answer until I started doing the research. I called a lawyer friend of mine, Larry Fox, who teaches ethics at Yale. He allowed me to talk to the class and even made it their semester project to find out if a lawyer like Mary could actually defend someone if the client of the firm was the parent company. All of the nuances I learned were put in the book.”
This series only gets better with each book. The characters and their relationships grow over time with Mary becoming stronger and more assertive and Bennie showing her soft spots. The plots are captivating and the twists and turns only add to the intensity.