Monday, March 01, 2010


Scottoline may have written this novel from the heart, and out of personal experience. The reader may experience more verisimilitude as a result, but that does not, nor should it, relieve the author of the obligation to edit. The novel is overlong, in what may be a misguided attempt to fool readers into believing they're getting a better deal for their money.

Good stories should not be required to support more side trips than are necessary. Nevertheless, long though it may be, this is a cracking good story, and for the most part well told. Bennie Rosato is a prominent, successful, criminal attorney who runs her own law firm in Philadelphia. It is a firm of women lawyers, some of whom come with considerable family baggage. Rosato is not excluded. She never had the standard nuclear family, her father apparently split long before Bennie had any real memories of him. Her mother is dying in a nursing home and Bennie has no one with whom to share that burden.

With only a week to go before the trial starts, drug dealer Alice Connolly, a woman accused of murdering her cop-lover, demands a new lawyer, specifically, the woman she claims is her twin sister, Bennie Rosato. Rosato has always known she was an only child. When Rosato meets with Connolly, loudly claiming a frame-up by the Philadelphia PD, she learns to her considerable and additional consternation that Connolly has been guided to the decision to contact Bennie, by an old man who claims to be the women's father. This can only be the case, of course, if Connolly is in fact, Bennie's sister.

Connolly is one of the most interesting characters in he book. Street-wise, tough as nails and amply capable of murder, her first and only priority is to use this possible connection with Bennie Rosato to get off and out from under the death penalty that goes with conviction.

Rosato, still wondering after many years of self-examination, what her family might have been, is forced by circumstances to renew the old questions and try to find the man claiming to be her father. Scottoline, a good writer, expertly weaves into the book, the story of the cloying, overly protective family of one of her associates as stark contrast to her own fragmented family. But having established her context and parameters, it's almost as if the author wants to be sure everyone who reads Mistaken Identity gets it. Readers will get it too.

The resolution, to family questions, to Connolly's claim of a frame and the murder trial itself, are all resolved in interesting ways and the book is ultimately satisfying. For fans of this author, Mistaken Identity will be a must read.

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