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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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Neurotic November by Barbara Levenson

Neurotic November” is the 4th in the “Mary Magruder Katz Mystery” series.  The author, Barbara Levenson, is a retired Miami area judge and she really knows how to make a suspenseful tale out of her expertise in the law and court proceedings.  She also is very good at describing Miami settings and lifestyles.

Mary Magruder Katz is Levenson’s fictional defense attorney in the Miami area.  In “Neurotic November”  Mary acquires a university football player as a client who is accused of statutory rape against minor.  He admits to having sex with the complainant, but Magruder Katz’s client claims to have been entrapped by a girl who misrepresented herself as a college student who had consensual sex.  The book brings up a very important message for all young adults to know.  In many states it is considered rape when anyone over 18 has sex with someone under the age of consent, usually set at age 16.  A few states will allow for a lesser charge, or will consider dropping charges, if there is less than a 5 year difference in age between the teen and the older partner.  In many states, however, judges have very little leeway but to send even those who had no idea they were dealing with a minor to prison and to put them on the sex offender list once they are out of prison.  Obviously, such a conviction would ruin someone for life.

Mary also agrees to defend her boyfriend’s father who is being questioned in connection with a money-laundering case.  This particular thread is only begun in this book and promises to be one of the main themes in Levenson’s next mystery. At the same time, Mary tries to aid her assistant, Catherine Aynsworth, who comes in bruised and battered from an ex-spouse.  When the former husband turns up dead the police accuse Catherine’s current love interest, Mary’s private investigator, Marco Perez.  Mary sets out to find out who really killed Brady Aynsworth and in the process Mary and her boyfriend, Carlos, become targets themselves.

There are enough twists and turns, plots and subplots to keep any mystery reader involved from the very first page of “Neurotic November.”  One of my favorite mysteries of 2014.  I could not put it down until I had read the book cover to cover.

Liz Nichols

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