Publisher: HarperCollins; 1 edition (June 1, 2004)
ISBN # 0060514957
My Grade: C –
Plot / Premise:
I’ve decided to copy and paste the plot summary from the below source. I always feel like I don’t do plot summaries justice and I’m only regurgitating what other people have said and … okay, fine. I’m lazy. I’d rather concentrate on character development and writing style.
Growing out of Scottoline’s discovery of her own grandparents’ alien registration cards, the book involves the case of an Italian-American who was interned during WWII. Amadeo Brandolini emigrated from Italy to Philadelphia, where he started a family and worked as a fisherman. When the war broke out, the FBI arrested and imprisoned him (along with 10,000 other Italian-Americans). He lost everything and wound up committing suicide in the camp. Rosato and Associates’ young star, Mary DiNunzio, steps up to represent Brandolini’s estate as it sues for reparations. Mary “grew up in South Philly, where she’d learned to pop her gum, wear high heels, and work overtime” and silently prays to saints when she can’t find things. This case, a pro bono one, means a lot to her; the local small business owners and family friends she grew up with want retribution for Brandolini as much as she does. Mary puts all of her energy into the job, and when clues suggest Brandolini’s death may have been a homicide, she becomes even more enthralled. As Mary learns more, the enemy camp (another Italian-American family, the Saracones) turns its murderous eye on her.
This was not one of my favorite Lisa Scottoline stories. It started out slow and then only got slower as the story progressed. Just when I was about to give up on it entirely, the pace picked up and it finally got interesting … sort of.
I think my biggest problem with this book was that I simply didn’t care about the case that Mary became obsessed about. And quite frankly, I couldn’t figure out why Mary cared about this particular case. I suppose if it had some personal meaning to her, I could see why she would continue to put her job, and life, on the line in order to get to the bottom of it, but until one of her good friends dies and the case turns into some sort of revenge-seeking mission, I just couldn’t understand her drive.
Mary herself was a rather boring character. She starts out mousy and then through a rather unrealistic epiphany suddenly develops a backbone. I found this unbelievable and tedious, quite frankly. I did end up liking her a bit more by the end of the story, but only a bit. The rest of the time I felt like she was a bumbling idiot and though she made progress throughout the story, it was more of an accidental progress – Lady Luck was on her side just a bit too much for my taste.
This was one of those stories where I thought the minor characters were way more interesting than our heroine and that’s really never a good sign, in my opinion.
Stuffed in between this uninteresting case she pursues obsessively throughout the story are her blind dates. Mary’s husband is dead and her well-intentioned friends are trying to get her back on the dating road again. Only these episodes felt completely out of place given the backbone of the story and they served as an irritating distraction more than anything else, though I will say, there were humorous moments. (Which might have saved the entire story from putting me to sleep, quite frankly).
I ended up giving this story a C- (as opposed to an F) because I liked how Scottoline ties the entire story together by the end. The seemingly random, pointless clues that Mary “accidentally” stumbles across throughout the story do come together in the end and though everything is nicely tied up, it worked for me; I finished the story feeling satisfied with Mary’s vindication.
One of the more interesting aspects of this story were the author’s notes at the end.
Responding to Negative Reviews:
This book has 140 interesting pages. Unfortunately, it’s 352 pages long. It starts out great – with a unique plot and some thought-provoking mystery elements. However, at page 141 it turns into a typical thriller novel with every possible cliche thrown in. The plot twists in the wind well beyond my ability for suspension of disbelief. I skipped through the last 3/5 of the book, wishing that I hadn’t dropped $20 for the hardcover. My advice is to borrow it from the library.
I have to say, I agree with this review. A reader could begin this book, skip several chapters and then resume without having missed too much. And I agree, the “mystery” seems formulaic given that it’s 50 years old and somewhat difficult to unearth to begin with.
After slowly building to a climax, the book concludes with a Santa Clause ending. A Santa Clause ending is employed by writers that do not want to expend the energy necessary to create an intricately woven plot and conclusion. Rather, they resort to a surprise ending that is only surprising because nothing lead to that result. In other words, you are expected to slap your forehead and exclaim, “wow, I never would have guessed that Santa Clause was the murderer.” She then wraps up everything discussed in the novel in a nice bow, even though the results are inexplicable.
I have to disagree with this one. The ending somewhat surprised me – I saw it coming, but only at the end. I thought she did a good job of tying in meaningless relationships at the end – again a nice, neat little package. But one that worked for me.
Managed to get 1/2 way through, when I had to call it a day. Character of Mary was somewhat stupid…especially for a lawyer. Her actions (e.g. breaking into a crime scene and stealing evidence, only to have it stolen from her purse?!!! And, that’s just one example…there are too many to list) I was so disgusted with her stupidity that I couldn’t force myself to read on any further.
Agreed. Mary was a bumbling idiot and I just couldn’t buy the fact that her boss kept going out on a limb for her. She was an airhead with extremely good luck and though she was charming, in a ditzy sort of way, I thought she was too stupid to be an up-and-coming lawyer. It just didn’t seem plausible given her personality.
I also found Mary, usually the wallflower of the group, to be highly annoying as the lead character. Her hundreds of apologies got old really fast, and her stupidity made me want to put the book down several times without finishing it. The worst came when she broke into a crime scene to steal evidence and basically got off with a slap on the wrist when she confessed what she’d done to the lead detective. Close behind were the two scenes at the Saracone house, when she broke away from the wife at a run to storm in on Gio on his deathbed, and when she waltzed into the house pretending to be a “funeral planner” in order to snoop. None of this was realistic and all these things made me dislike the character even more than I already did. She was wimpy, stupid and annoying.
Again, agreed. I couldn’t imagine anyone “real” getting away with half of the things that the other characters allowed Mary to get away with. It was as if all she had to do was smile her simple smile and POOF, everything was magically okay. I’m sad to say, Mary was the least interesting character in this story and considering it was HER story, that’s not saying a lot for this story overall.
By the way, I have this book for sale in my book store if you would like to purchase it and check it out for yourself.