Lately, Bennie Rosato has her eye focused firmly on the bottom line, especially since she has three dedicated young associates and a very pregnant secretary on her payroll, so she takes a professional risk, charging into a class action lawsuit that could make -- or break -- her career. Then her wallet goes missing. And Bennie's life goes crazy. Someone is posing as the outspoken, blue-eyed, blond attorney and is wreaking havoc around town, apparently determined to destroy everything Bennie loves. Only one person can pull off this double deception -- Bennie's identical twin sister, Alice Connelly. But as far as Bennie knows, Alice left Philly long ago and never looked back. When events escalate into murder, the maverick lawyer realizes that the stakes are far greater than she feared. But Bennie Rosato refuses to be anyone's victim. To find the killer, she'll plunge headfirst into a life-and-death investigation that will bring her face to face with evil darker, yet more familiar, than anything before.
Another bestseller is on the docket for Scottoline (Courting Trouble; Rough Justice; The Vendetta Defense), with a new legal caper featuring the lady lawyers of series heroine Bennie Rosato's Philadelphia law firm, Rosato and Associates. This time out it's Bennie playing the lead role, as she fights to save her financially sinking firm; mother her lovable partners, Mary DiNunzio and Judy Carrier; solve the murder of a valuable client; and battle her evil twin, Alice. The eviction notice is on the door when suave Frenchman Robert St. Amien steps in with a class-action suit that promises not only to stave off Bennie's landlord but to shovel millions of dollars into the firm's bottomed-out bank account. The fact that our heroine has never handled a class-action suit doesn't faze her for more than a nanosecond. Bennie has her wallet stolen and soon becomes the target of increasingly sinister attacks, until it becomes clear that Alice (last seen in Mistaken Identity) is back in town and bent on revenge. When the stakes are upped to murder, Bennie realizes she's in big trouble. Fortunately, hunky SEAL David Holland shows up to save her dog, act as bodyguard and supply the love interest. Of course, he has a dark secret, but this just makes him more appealing and sympathetic when it is revealed. Occasional awkward writing intrudes ("Anger bubbled like lifeblood to her cheeks"), there are too many pantyhose jokes, and the solution to the mystery is a clunker, but readers caught up in the fast and furious wordplay will hardly notice. Bennie grows on you, and soon enough you're rooting for the home team and laughing at her corny jokes. Mystery Guild and Literary Guild main selection; Doubleday Book Club, BOMC and QPB alternate; Costco's June Book Club selection; 9-city author tour. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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May 30, 2004
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Excerpt from Dead Ringer by Lisa Scottoline
Bennie Rosato had waited for more than a hundred jury verdicts in her career, but the waiting never got easier. The courtroom was empty, the air still. Bennie could hear the clock ticking on the paneled wall, but it could have been her sense of drama. She was sitting next to her client, Ray Finalil, who was gnawing his cuticles. If they lost this trial, Ray's company would have to pay three million dollars in damages. Three million bucks buys a lot of cuticles.
Bennie set aside her own case of nerves to cheer him up. "Yo, Ray. How do you stop a lawyer from drowning "
"Take your foot off his head."
Ray didn't smile. His gaze remained fixed on the vacant jury box, with its black leather chairs swiveled in different directions. The jury had been charged on the law this morning and they'd been out deliberating all day. That meant Ray and Bennie were entering their sixth hour of small talk. To Bennie, that was as good as married.
"Okay, no more jokes," she said. "Tell me about your son's baseball game. I'll pretend I don't know about the home run or the catch at third base."
Ray's chin dropped to his hand. His brown eyes were bloodshot from three weeks of sleepless nights and his cheeks hollow from the ten pounds he'd shed during the trial, even though he was completely innocent. Being a defendant was no-win; if you lost, you paid the plaintiff, and if you won, you paid your lawyer. This was known as the American Rule. Only Americans tolerate law without justice.
"Look, Ray, we don't have to stay here. I have my cell phone, and the deputy clerk has my number. How about we take a field trip We can go see the Liberty Bell. It's only a block away."
"This land is your land, Ray. This land is my land."
"Come on, it'll do you good to go out and walk around." Bennie rose, stretched, and took a personal inventory. She thought she was good-looking for a lawyer, even though she stood six feet tall and her proportions were positively Amazonian. Her khaki suit was still pressed and her white Gap shirt fairly clean. Her long, disobedient blond hair had been piled into a twist with a tortoiseshell barrette, but no makeup maximized the blue of her eyes or minimized the crow's-feet at their corners. An old boyfriend had told her that her mouth was generous, but she suspected it was a sneaky way of saying she had a big mouth. At the moment, it was shaped into a sympathetic frown. "You don't wanna take a walk "
"When do you think they'll come back " Ray didn't have to explain who "they" were. The jury.
"End of today." Bennie sat back down. At least the stretch had shaken off some of her stress. She couldn't remember the last time she'd exercised. This trial had consumed every available minute for the past two months, but her law firm needed the dough. The slump in the economy had hit lawyers, too, and people had stopped suing each other. Could world peace be far behind
"I can't take another day of this. You sure they'll come back today "
"Positive. This is a simple fraud case, in federal court only through the miracle of diversity jurisdiction. And Thursday is a good day for juries to go out. They get it over with if they come back today, then they go home and make it a three-day weekend. They won't go to work on a Friday after jury duty."