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DAMAGED by Lisa Scottoline: Book Review

It’s two weeks before Mary DiNunzio’s wedding, and she hardly has time to breathe.  She needs to approve the wedding menu, go for a fitting on her gown, and meet her mother-in-law for an appointment at the latter’s spa where the stylists want to do major renovations to/for Mary and her mother.  She’s getting truly frantic, and then along comes a case like no other she’s ever had.

Edward O’Brien is her new client, a widower in his seventies who is the guardian of his ten-year-old grandson Patrick.  Edward tells Mary that his grandson has dyslexia, has been bullied in school for years, and that there has been no remedial program for him in his school despite the federal law that mandates an appropriate education for every special needs student.  It also appears that despite the legal requirement that Patrick be tested every three years to chart his reading progress, no evaluation has ever been done after the first one five years earlier.

What brought Edward to Mary’s office is that he has just been served with a lawsuit, claiming that Patrick attacked his teacher with a scissors.  The truth is, Edward tells Mary, that it’s the teacher who slapped Patrick and humiliated him in front of the entire class.  The school’s lawyer is none other than Nick Machiavelli, someone Mary knows from her old neighborhood.  Nick claims that he is descended from Niccolo Machiavelli, the historian and politician known for his cunning and unscrupulous behavior, and Mary is pretty sure she believes him.  It would certainly explain a lot.  She has always wanted to face “The Dark Prince of South Philly,” as Nick is known, and this is her chance.

And there’s Anthony, Mary’s fiancé.  A college adjunct professor, he’s been in California since Mary accepted the O’Brien case, and he and Mary barely have had time to talk in his absence.  Upon his return, there’s another problem to be added to the mix that surrounds Mary.

Mary is now a partner in Rosato and DiNunzio, Philadelphia attorneys.  Readers of this series have followed Mary from her early days as a shy, diffident lawyer to the confident woman she is in Damaged.  Although she’s moved from the South Philadelphia home where she grew up, her heart is still there with her parents and the three Tonys who make up her extended family–Pigeon Tony, Tony-From-Down-The-Block, and Tony Feet.  She knows where she came from and who supported her in every way, and despite an unexpected opportunity that seems perfect on the surface, she’s not about to desert them now.

Lisa Scottline’s most recent mysteries have dealt with some very difficult contemporary subjects.  In Most Wanted it is sperm donation, in Corrupted it is the Pennsylvania juvenile prison system, and in Damaged it is the issue of children with special needs and how the public school system is failing them.  Over and above the excellent plots and characterizations in these mysteries, Ms. Scottoline’s books look deeply and compassionately into our society and its values.

You can read more about Lisa Scottline at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.