Devil's Corner
Lisa Scottoline
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Devil's Corner
Lisa Scottoline
480 pages
April 2006
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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Devil's Corner is just another part of hell, one of Philadelphia's drug-infested slums, where desperate addicts wander in search of a fix. Trade is brisk on the dark streets, where crime thrives with impunity.

When a brutal rowhouse murder brings Assistant U.S. Attorney Victoria Allegretti to the neighborhood, she knows her father grew up here in a home ruled by poverty but never as desolate as the wasteland it has become. On this fateful night, Vicki is caught in the crossfire, her ATF partner shot down while she watches. Even though she has been warned by her boss, the AUSA can't let go of her self-styled mission for justice.

Vicki's CI was killed the night of the gun battle, so Allegretti resources the case files, choosing to work with the one person who can possibly help her: Reheema Bristow. Reheema refuses to cooperate, but when her crack-addicted mother is brutally murdered, the girl throws in with Allegretti. Vicki was at the womanís house right before Mrs. Bristow was killed; if not a suspect, she is certainly a person of interest.

Various agencies get caught up in a struggle for jurisdiction, but Vicki and Reheema cut to the chase, using cell-phone images from their surveillance of drug dealers at Devil's Corner to inform the local cops of illegal activity. Allegretti conveniently forgets legal procedure, jumping to conclusions in her enthusiasm, putting her emotions before her professionalism, a serious mistake while on the job.

It is hard to imagine either Vicki or Reheema getting down and dirty in thug life without being spotted by the dealers or compromised on the street. But this odd couple stakes out Devilís Corner, piecing together the plot. In the end, Victoria successfully circumnavigates the very system she works in, proving herself invaluable and restoring her credibility as a functioning agent of the court system. Allegretti proves a worthy opponent of crime, a champion of the underdog and a winner in the game of love.

As crime novels go, Devil's Corner is simplistic. Scottoline doesn't challenge herself, scattering inane italicized comments throughout, her protagonist either shrinking from the reality of inner-city violence or ripping through crime-riddled streets like some superhero on a mission. Scottoline has written a schizophrenic character with an amazingly infantile reaction to conflict.

Other than the unlikely pairing of these two women, the most glaring flaw in the book is Allegretti's vigilantism - barging into private homes, interrogating suspects, forcing statements without a Miranda warning in sight. These impulsive actions may make the story more interesting, but such displays undermine the integrity of an investigation, all because the protagonist "has to know". Nevertheless, fans will hail this new adventure while the author laughs all the way to the bank.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2005

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