Dead Ringer by Lisa Scottoline

In Dead Ringer , Lisa Scottoline again features the law firm of Benedetta (Bennie) Rosato and her motley crew of female attorneys. After the past three novels featuring the associates of the law firm (Mary DiNunzio, Judy Carrier and the latest addition Anne Murphy), Ms. Scottoline features Bennie Rosato, the character who has been in the series the longest, in this outing.

And what a tale it is. It is very timely, especially to someone like myself who went through layoffs as part of the “dot bomb” period as every business owner in the first 10 pages is broke. The novel begins with Bennie winning a case which could have cost her client $3 million in damages. While trying to set up a congratulatory dinner, she finds out that her client is bankrupt and can’t pay her the $15,000 he owes, which for a law firm like hers is a huge sum. So, she has to find a way to pay her associates and keep her firm open, which isn’t going to be easy since she owes three months back rent and the landlord has already served her with an eviction notice.

Enter an angel in the form of Robert St. Amiens, a medical lens manufacturer who wants to file suit against a trade association for boycotting foreign products. After some investigation, Bennie finds that what should really happen is a class action suit and that such a suit is already being started up by a high-powered lawyer named Bull Linette, whose office looked like “the Grand Hall at Versailles . . . (with) 14-carat swags draped over tall mullioned windows . . . golden damask walls . . . (and)gilt-framed scenes of French peasant life. Oddly enough, there wasn’t an eviction notice in sight.” Ms.Scottoline’s little touches of humor like the eviction notice quip are pure entertainment.

Bull has a man, a competitor of Mr. St. Amiens, who claims to be lead plaintiff, which would make Bull lead counsel, which in class action suits is a huge moneymaking opportunity. Bennie feels her client has lost more money due to the boycott and begins her fight to make her client lead plaintiff and her firm lead counsel.

Meanwhile, someone is stalking Bennie. Her wallet is missing, and packages from all types of merchants charged to her credit cards start arriving at her firm. When she is out rowing one evening (her favorite form of exercise), she sees someone playing fetch with a dog by throwing the ball into traffic. When she realizes with horror that it is her dog, she sinks her scull trying to get to shore and save her beloved pet. But the dog is safe, due to the efforts of a tall, handsome stranger, who just happens to be a Navy SEAL who is “taking a break for a few months.”

From here, the novel really kicks into high gear. Bennie’s search for her stalker really gets going and provides many suspenseful moments. She knows who the stalker is, but I won’t spoil the surprise for you by telling who it is. In the meantime, her hilarious gay friend Sam, a bankruptcy attorney, tells her that she has no money and tries to give her advice on how to save the firm without losing all of her personal possessions.

This book has a lot of things going for it:

  • The humorous and catty interplay of Bennie’s associates (think Ally McBeal without the weirdness) is very entertaining.
  • Mary DiNunzio’s “side case” that is introduced, which looks more like a 24- hour Italian wedding than a law case, is hysterical.
  • The uneasiness Bennie feels when she finds out exactly why her new Navy SEAL bodyguard is “on break”, feeling attracted to him and fearful of him at the same time.
  • The cat and mouse game Bennie plays with her stalker.
  • Ms. Scottoline’s great writing style, which makes you not want to put the book down.
  • For readers who enjoy a good legal story or suspense tale told in a refreshing style, Dead Ringer is just the ticket.