Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Book Review: 'Corrupted' by Lisa Scottoline

Although Lisa Scottoline’s “Corrupted” is billed as a Rosato & DiNunzio novel, Bennie Rosato, the independent, tough-minded, and highly skilled attorney who owns and operates her own firm (with DiNunzio as her partner) is the star of this absorbing legal thriller. Although she has not tried a murder cases in years, Bennie feels obligated to defend Jason Lefkavick when the police charge him with killing his longtime enemy, Richie Grusini. What concerns Bennie is that Jason had the motive, means, and opportunity to harm Richie. Furthermore, there is more than enough circumstantial evidence to convince a jury of Jason’s guilt. Why is Bennie getting involved at all? Thirteen years earlier, she tried to help Jason when he was a twelve-year-old motherless kid who was sentenced to juvenile detention for pushing Richie, a bully who tormented him. Bennie’s attempts to save Jason backfired; now she longs to redeem herself by exonerating Lefkavick, who has grown from a timid and insecure boy into a gentle and kindhearted adult.

The author masterfully sets the scene (as always, she pays homage to Philadelphia, where Bennie lives and works) and then takes us back to flesh out the circumstances that first brought Bennie and Jason together. Readers will enjoy observing the younger Bennie in action; she is smart, determined, and fearless as she tries to overturn a judge’s decision to put youngsters away for minor offenses. Complicating matters further, Bennie falls for Richie Grusini’s uncle, Declan, a state trooper who is protective of Richie and his brothers. Unfortunately, Richie’s shrewish mom, Doreen, Declan’s sister, is a troubled individual who has anger management issues. She loathes Bennie and tries to sabotages her at every turn.

“Corrupted” is one of Scottoline’s most gripping works of fiction in years. Bennie is a joy to watch. She is a brilliant litigator who knows case law cold and is not above using every trick in the book to prevail in court. However, even she cannot control the media or prevent a loose cannon like Doreen from stirring up trouble. In flashback, we observe Bennie as a vulnerable woman who longs to have a meaningful relationship with a man she loves and respects. The novel’s chief flaw is its implausible ending, but even Scottoline’s far-fetched conclusion does not markedly reduce the entertainment value of this fast-paced and involving tale. Bennie’s extraordinary efforts to outshine her opponent during Jason’s murder trial culminate in a shocking climax that few could have foreseen.

Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right

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