Saturday, September 21, 2013

"Dead Ringer" by Lisa Scottoline

Bennie Rosato heads up the law firm Rosato & Associates, overseeing three younger associates. It looks as if she is facing bankruptcy, as her latest client cannot afford to pay her. But salvation comes in the form of Robert St. Amiel, who wishes to start a class action suit against eye-lens manufacturers in America who are illegally trying to freeze out international competitors. If she can be lead counsel on the matter, the money would roll in.

However, strange things are happening, with Rosato being accused of getting drunk and kicked out of a restaurant, when she only had one drink and left on her own accord. Then she is arrested for stealing diamonds from a jewellery store. She realises this must be the work of her estranged twin sister, Alice Connelly, whom she defended on a murder charge two years earlier. Alice is back and seemingly wants to destroy Bennie's life one aspect at a time.

There's also a murder thrown into the storyline to tag this as a "crime" thriller, but it comes late in the proceedings (the book is more than half-way through), so to divulge any details would possibly be a spoiler.

Suffice to say, Dead Ringer is exceptionally dull. And for a lawyer who runs her own firm, Bennie often comes across as exceptionally dense. She's being questioned over a crime she didn't commit and doesn't seem to have the common-sense to stay quiet? Instead she keeps on digging a deeper hole for herself with her behaviour and answers. I mean - really? I certainly wouldn't want Bennie as my lawyer - I'd probably wind up in jail, guilty or innocent.

Characterisations are so cutesy it makes your teeth hurt, or else they're straight out of central casting. Bennie's best friend Sam is not just gay, he's flamboyantly gay. Her associates aren't just quirky, they're flamboyantly quirky. Mysterious potential love interest David Holland is a stoic, ex-Navy SEAL, who knows just what to do to make a woman melt, and offers bodyguard protection at no cost. Bleccccchhh.

The murder mystery aspect is practically throwaway. A couple of red herrings and then Bennie magically figures out the culprit in the most roundabout, ridiculous way that you can imagine. Who needs detective work? All murder mysteries should be that easy to solve. I still can't figure out why this book needed to be 444 pages long when, really, barely anything actually happened.

Having several subplots floating along with each other with no real depth might be okay if this were a television series - and the hackneyed characterisations certainly suggest these folks would make good TV fodder - but not in book form, and not when there is no suggestion that the plots in this book would even carry over into the next.

Dead Ringer is crime fiction-lite, and not one I would recommend.

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