Mary DiNunzio, the second-best attorney in Philadelphia, is about to walk down the aisle when she gets sucked into the very real possibility of becoming a mother, or at least a foster mother, first.
Retired accountant Edward O’Brien wants Mary’s help in defending Patrick, the dyslexic 10-year-old grandson he’s raising, from Steven Robertson, the teacher’s aide at Grayson Elementary whose lawsuit alleges that Patrick attacked him with a pair of scissors. It’s all nonsense, Edward insists: Patrick, though chronically humiliated by his primitive reading skills, his habit of throwing up when he’s stressed out, and the constant bullying he attracts, wouldn’t harm a fly. Besides, Robertson’s suit is merely designed to deflect attention from the fact that the last time he caught Patrick throwing up, he punched the child hard enough to bruise his face. In fact, as Mary’s swift and efficient investigation discloses, the situation is much worse than that; Robertson’s abused Patrick sexually on at least three occasions. But Patrick keeps going disastrously off script, and Robertson’s lawyer, Nick Machiavelli, justifying his claim to direct descent from the father of Renaissance realpolitik, ties Mary up in legal knots when Edward unexpectedly dies and she files an emergency appeal to become Patrick’s temporary guardian. Even worse, there’s evidence that Edward’s death may have been murder, with Patrick the obvious suspect and Mary his obvious accomplice. Starting slowly, Scottoline expertly stokes the boiler to the bursting point, and readers will stay up long past their bedtimes watching Mary try to sweet-talk everyone from the family court judge to Anthony Rotunno, her fiance, who returns from a trip to California to a bombshell that forces him to reimagine his life with Mary in radically new terms.
As usual with the firm of Rosato & DiNunzio (Corrupted, 2015, etc.), the complications aren’t worked out nearly as carefully as they’re piled up, and fans who race nonstop through the last hundred pages will be doing both themselves and Scottoline a favor.