After a three-year break to write barn-burning crossover thrillers (Don’t Go, 2013, etc.), Scottoline returns to those ornaments of the Philadelphia bar, Rosato & Associates, with an utterly characteristic spin on that old chestnut, the jailed innocent wrongfully convicted of murder.
Making partner is even a bigger deal for Mary DiNunzio than she could have expected. For one thing, her live-in boyfriend, Anthony Rotunno asks her to marry him. For another, she lands a most peculiar case courtesy of a client who wants her to spring sometime caterer Lonnie Stall from Graterford Prison, where he’s spent the past six years, ever since he pleaded guilty in the stabbing death of Fiona Gardner. What makes the case peculiar is the client: Fiona’s kid sister Allegra, who was just 7 at the time of the murder. She was already then convinced that Stall was innocent. Now that she’s turned 13, Allegra, “your basic poor little rich girl,” is able to tap a trust fund that allows her to pay a law firm to reopen the case. Allegra, a matter-of-fact prodigy who keeps bees and fears nothing, is the best thing about this story. The second best is her parents, who are so determined to keep her from reopening old wounds that they take some pretty drastic steps against Mary and Bennie Rosato and threaten even more. Unfortunately, the battle royal within the Gardner family, with Rosato & Associates as collateral damage, is generally subordinated to Mary’s sleuthing, which is surprisingly sober, methodical and uninteresting, right down to the unmasking of an unimpressive killer.
Comfort food for the faithful, with less thrills and more detection than most of the firm’s cases (Think Twice, 2010, etc.): a showcase for a heroine who aptly describes herself as “Nancy Drew with a J.D.”