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Shattered by Death by Catherine Finger

Shattered by Death” is the second in the “A Jo Oliver Thriller” by Catherine Finger.  The protagonist is small town police chief, Jo Oliver, who is locked out of the investigation of the brutal killings of her estranged husband and his girl friend in a double homicide.  Oliver finds them in the boat house of the property she and her husband still own together.  Oliver’s close friend and budding romantic interest, FBI agent Nick Vitarello, presents evidence to clear Oliver of the crime, against the police chief’s will.

Many women will identify strongly with Oliver.  She is generous with her time in that she volunteers at a couple of women’s shelters.  This fact she wants to keep secret to protect the identies of the battered women who are sheltered, even though security tapes from the shelters will prove here whereabouts during the murders. She is in the process of adopting a child, even as she fights a contentious divorce. She is bull-headed, full of self-doubt about her worthiness to ever be loved (doubts Nick constantly tries to assuage), and she is a born-again Christian who frequently calls on God for guidance and support.

The identity of the serial killer who tries to frame the Chief is not a particular surprise to me, but the twists and turns that lead to the ending keep “Shattered by Death” a suspenseful read.  Two thumbs up.

Review copy was provided.

Liz Nichols

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Betrayed by Lisa Scottoline

Betrayed” is another in Lisa Scottoline’s Rosato & Associates Novel series.  This mystery concentrates on the less-well-known of the all-female law firm’s members, Judy Carrier.  Unlike Judy’s more out-going friend, Mary Di Nunzio,  Judy does not seek the limelight and has not been sought out by wealthy clients.  Therefore, Judy has not been on the partner track with the firm until boss, Bennie Rosato, lands the defense side of a series of asbestos cases against a major company and she assigns them to Judy.  Judy begrudgingly recognizes that her job is to minimize the damage claims and for that she will bring in millions of dollars in fees to the company and be considered worthy of partner status.

Judy’s main concern, however, is caring for her aunt who is about to have breast cancer surgery.  Shortly before the surgery she meets her aunt’s best friend, an illegal immigrant from Mexico named Iris, who is later found dead in her car of an apparent heart attack or possibly suicide.  Aunt Barb insists that Iris’ death could not have been of natural causes or by her own hand, and Judy turns the heat up on the police department to investigate when a huge amount of cash is found stashed in her aunt’s garage, ostensibly by Iris.  The money trail leads back to an extensive ring of corruption on both sides of the border with Mexico and it puts the lives of Judy, her mother, her aunt and anyone they come in contact with in jeopardy. Amidst the investigation into Iris’ death a couple other bombshells fall into Judy’s lap that make her feel very betrayed and alone.

Scottoline addresses a number of issues that millions of people face on a daily basis in this country.  Undocumented workers are frequent victims of crime and abuse because they believe they cannot freely report crimes to the police.  In order to stay in this country many who would never take up criminal activity feel forced to commit fraud and other crimes in order to be able to work and go to school under false identities.  The book also touches on generational issues and differences that lead to misunderstanding between ethnic groups and people of different economic strata.

There are some stereotypical things in “Betrayed” that might raise a quibble or two, but for the most part, Scottoline does a good job of introducing people to issues that affect millions living in this country, and yet are little discussed or understood by the majority of the population.

Liz Nichols

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