Still another untested female member of the Philadelphia bar undergoes baptism by fire when a routine prison visit erupts in violent death.
Unsure of her skills and status as an assistant professor at Penn Law, Natalie Greco reluctantly accepts her scruffy, charismatic colleague Angus Holt’s invitation to join him at the legal clinic he runs at Chester County Correctional Facility. Their visit to the minimum-security prison goes fine until a riot breaks out. Amid the call to lockdown, three inmates are killed. So is correctional officer Ron Saunders, who dies as Nat is struggling to administer CPR. She’s too late to save his life, but not too late to hear the last words he’s desperate to pass on to his wife Barbara: “It’s . . . under the floor.” Contemplating her boyfriend Hank Ballisteri’s likely reaction to the cuts and bruises she got when she was attacked during the melee, Nat is glum. But the worst is still ahead. First, Barbara Saunders disclaims any knowledge of what might be under the floor; then her house is burgled; finally, minutes after Nat leaves her, she’s shot and left for dead, with another murder right around the corner, just waiting to be pinned on Nat. Seasoned fans will eagerly anticipate the obligatory developments that follow. Nat and her lawyer talk the police into letting her go; new evidence makes her look guiltier than ever; and, in the tale’s most absorbing pages, she takes it seriously on the lam, showing all the resourcefulness of Scottoline’s other Philadelphia lawyers (Dirty Blonde, 2006, etc.) in disguising herself, boosting a new set of wheels and evading pursuit en route to a clever and well-prepared surprise.
On the down side, Nat’s relation to her male-dominated construction family, despite the emphasis promised by the title, is less compelling than usual, and the lead criminal is easily spotted by readers less starry-eyed than Nat.