Mia Geiger

The Philadelpha Inquirer
Philly thriller stands alone in dark corner

By Mia Geiger

Among the more captivating aspects of Lisa Scottoline’s mysteries are the female characters she creates: smart, funny, flawed, and so real they could be your girlfriends or neighbors.

Over the course of 11 books, the local lawyer-turned-writer showered readers with the trials and trepidations of Bennie Rosato and her colleagues at the fictional all-women law firm of Rosato & Associates, combining suspense with stories of camaraderie, family and friendship.

Now, like other authors of successful mystery series, Scottoline has written a stand-alone novel. For a fan of the author’s legal thrillers, accustomed to a new Bennie Rosato book each year, it’s bittersweet; it’s hard not to miss neophyte lawyer Mary DiNunzio and her overprotective South Philly parents, feisty and wacky-dressing Judy Carrier, and the tough yet fair and secretly vulnerable Rosato – along with the trouble they get into.

Like all the books in her series, Devil’s Corner is set locally. This time it’s West Philadelphia, with the book named for a fictional run-down and crime-ridden area. It’s also where the protagonist’s father grew up, before the neighborhood took a downward turn.

Devil’s Corner gets off to a fast start when prosecutor Vicki Allegretti’s beloved partner, Bob Morton, is gunned down during a meeting with a confidential drug informant; Allegretti herself narrowly escapes death moments later at the hands of the same teenager.

Her search for the killer leads her to team up with a suspect in the case named Reheema Bristow. Though Bristow is from a dangerous section of the inner city and Allegretti hails from the cushy suburbs, the two form a bond as they both seek justice for the murders of loved ones. The two also pull together to stop Devil’s Corner from deteriorating further and to revitalize it as a peaceful place to live.

The partnership between the two women – the gorgeous, street- savvy and wiser-than-her-years Bristow and the naive and idealistic Allegretti – gives the book an element not often found in mysteries: a female buddy connection. It’s fun to see how the two women first bristle at each other and slowly come around, to the point of being able to joke sarcastically with each other.

Allegretti also enjoys a close relationship with colleague Dan Malloy, who’d be the perfect boyfriend if only he weren’t married – to the beautiful Mariella Suarez, a physician who prefers her job to her husband.

Sly humor, similar to that in the author’s series, helps soften the tough themes of drugs and violence. Philadelphia touches, such as mentions of a 76ers jacket, an Eagles coat, Roosevelt Boulevard and Hahnemann Hospital, give the story a strong local flavor.

Devil’s Corner is less of a beach read than its sisters in the Scottoline series, but its new heroine is a welcome addition to the family. And for those wondering when Bennie Rosato and her crew will make another appearance, hang tight – Scottoline’s next book will be another stand-alone.
Mia Geiger is a freelance writer in the Philadelphia area.

 

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