Dead Ringer
Lisa Scottoline
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Dead Ringer
Lisa Scottoline
432 pages
June 2004
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Philadelphia lawyer Bennie Rosato and her law firm, which consists of four young female associates (characters from previous Scottoline novels) and one very pregnant secretary, are rapidly going the drain. This is largely due to their major clients going bankrupt in this slow economy. Teetering on the verge of a total financial collapse and in misery from being on a curse diet, no one is more surprised than Bennie when a class action lawsuit drops into her lap like manna from heaven. Even though she’s never handled anything like this before, Bennie’s associates have full confidence in her near perfect record of courtroom victories, and they together take on this case. When Bennie’s wallet goes missing, none of them realize that it’s simply a herald that things are about to go from bad to worse.

Soon Bennie is realizes that her evil twin sister Alice is back in town and intent upon ruining her good name and reputation, and this rapidly escalates into something vastly more sinister. With time and money running out, Bennie struggles to continue working at her best while maintaining her cool, looking after and encouraging her fledgling associates, and holding her law firm afloat. When murder most foul is committed, a shaken but determined Bennie dives headfirst into solving it, little realizing that her enemies are only increasing in number. And when Bennie Rosato decides to fight back, no one is safe, least of all her enemies.

It’s a characteristic of Lisa Scottoline’s novels that they have a determined female lawyer as the heroine who works hard, surmounts insurmountable obstacles and in the end emerges shaken but triumphant. So is the case with this novel, too, which reunites many characters from Scottoline’s previous novels. It’s fun to read about a character like Bennie Rosato, who’s imperfect enough to be totally convincing, who gets worked up enough to be really believable, and yet who's resilient enough to emerge victorious. As Dead Ringer progresses, we see Bennie and her associates almost inundated by seemingly unconnected catastrophes, we wait with bated breath as Bennie struggles to turn the tide, and we sigh with relief and joy when they finally manage to do so. It’s to Scottoline’s credit that she succeeds in repeatedly getting her readers utterly involved enough in her devious plot twists and wonderful characterizations as to forget that it’s just a book they’re reading. This book ties up some loose ends and concludes things very satisfactorily.

Dead Ringer can be classified in many different ways - as a riveting legal thriller, as a compelling family drama, and as a deeply rich and emotional saga involving many complex characters. No matter which way you take it, it’s a must read.

© 2003 by Rashmi Srinivas for Curled Up With a Good Book

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