The chronicler of Philadelphia law firm Rosato & DiNunzio (Damaged, 2016, etc.) heads out to the suburbs to insert a fraudulent teacher into the staff of Central Valley High School.
If you were looking for a midyear replacement for a departing government teacher, you could hardly do better than Chris Brennan. He’s clearly prepared to cover the courses in government and criminal justice; he’s bright, attractive, and personable; he bonds instantly and effectively with students; and he can even serve as assistant coach of the school’s faltering baseball team. Chris is clearly too good to be true, an observation it never occurs to his new colleagues to take seriously. Only Abe Yomes, the gay African-American language-arts teacher, poses any threat, not because he sees through Chris but because he actually grew up in Wyoming, where Chris is pretending to be from. Soon enough, however, Mr. Y is dead, an apparent suicide, and Chris is ready to go ahead with his plan, which requires him to befriend a lonely, vulnerable boy—preferably somebody both in his class and on the baseball team—separate him from his cohort, and turn him into a patsy for a scheme that involves a rented truck and a mountain of ammonium chloride fertilizer. To say more would undermine several whopping surprises Scottoline has in store, but readers can be assured that the author nails the high school milieu, from athletic rivalries to sexting, and that even if they spot every twist coming from a mile away, they’re still in for one thrilling ride on the roller coaster.
A bonus is some strategic leavening via Scottoline’s journalistic aphorisms, as when one of the students’ mothers imagines a romance with the imposter hero: “She knew that it was an inappropriate fantasy, but no fantasy worth having was appropriate.”