About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Exposed by Lisa Scottoline


(20. – 950.) Exposed by Lisa Scottoline – Philadelphia lawyer, Mary DiNunzio, has spent her life within the loving confines of the close-knit Italian community in South Philadelphia. Family extends out to include neighbourhood friends.

Mary’s father, Tony, arrives at her office for a consultation. With him are his best friends – The Three Tonies:

Her father had grown up with The Tonys; Tony “From-Down-The-Block” Lomonaco, “Pigeon” Tony Lucia, and Tony “Two Feet” Pensiera, which got shortened to “Feet,” so even his nickname had a nickname. It went without saying that name traditions in South Phlly were sui generis which was Latin for completely insane. The Tonys went everywhere with her father and sometimes helped her on her cases, which was liking having a secret weapon or a traveling nightmare.

They have come to ask her to help Feet’s son, her unofficial cousin Simon, who has been dismissed by his employer, OpenSpace, an office cubicle manufacturing company.

Simon is already in the midst of a personal crisis. His wife has died and his young daughter, Rachel, is in need of a bone marrow transplant.

When Mary hears he was fired because his employer was concerned about the costs of the costs to the company health insurance because of Rachel’s medical condition Mary sees an excellent case for wrongful dismissal.

In her enthusiasm and desire to support her family and community Mary makes a fundamental mistake for any lawyer in a private law firm larger than one. Without doing a conflict review within the firm she commits to representing him.

When she advises her partner, Bennie Rosato, of the new case she learns to her dismay that Bennie is the long time lawyer for Dumbarton Industries, the parent company to Simon’s employer.

A huge ethical issue must be addressed. One lawyer cannot represent a client in a lawsuit against another client of the firm. There is a conflict of interest between the respective clients. Firms of every size require conflicts checks before taking on new cases.

Leaving aside the plausibility of Mary taking on a case without determining if there was a conflict I was surprised to learn the issue is not as clear cut as I expected where one of the clients is the parent company to the company being sued as is the case in Mary’s action.

What Mary’s action inevitably provokes is the question whether Mary and Bennie can remain partners. Mary has acted precipitously, if not recklessly, and while there may be legal authority for being able to sue Open Spaces even though Bennie represents the parent company there are serious issues for the partnership. Law partners must trust each other and cannot be worried a partner will take up a case that may casuse a conflict with other clients of the firm. Taking the case against a client is further bound to have an adverse effect upon the firm’s relationship with the existing client.
In Exposed the owner of Dumbarton is Nate Lence, who Bennie has known since law school. He is incensed that Bennie will not forthwith prohibit Mary from taking the case. Bennie explains to her lover, Declan, Lence’s reaction:

            …. “He wouldn’t normally, but this time, he’s taking it 
            personally.”

            “Because you’re involved. Hell hath no fury like a lawyer
            scorned.”
           
To Scottoline’s credit Mary and Bennie remain respectful of each other as they determine whether there is a way for their partnership to survive. Both accept the other is honourable and not out to hurt the other partner.

As they wrestle with the question of conflict of interest the sales manager of Open Space is killed and Simon is the leading suspect.

I was startled by the murder. I had been caught up in the story of the civil action for wrongful dismissal, the transplant drama of Rachel and the conflict of interest issue. I had no need of a murder to keep me engrossed. If anything, I found the murder a distraction.

Scottoline’s resolution of the murder is cleverly done. Mary and Bennie use their legal skills to determine the real killer.

The conclusion was more Hollywood than I prefer in a book but the thriller conclusion was again well done by Scottoline.

You cannot describe Exposed as a light read with the serious legal issues addressed in the plot and a murder being solved. At the same time it was easy reading.

There are precious few works of legal fiction that emphasize positive family relationships. Mary’s family, official and unofficial, are warm emotional people. Most lawyers I know have such families. I wish more of them were created in legal fiction.

Exposed is the second book from the 2018 shortlist for the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction I have read. I enjoyed the book.

5 comments:

  1. Oh, that is an interesting question, Bill: conflict of interest when it comes to accepting cases. I haven't read a lot of legal novels where that sort of situation comes up, so I'm glad Scottoline brings that up. I'm also glad there are consequences for committing to a case before a conflict check; that strikes me as realistic. I'm very glad, actually, that you discuss this book; I must spotlight one of Scottoline's books, and I appreciate the reminder that I haven't yet done that.

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  2. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Scottoline has an interesting mix of dark and light in her plot.

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  3. Great review. Add this to the list of books that I would like to borrow next time I’m home :)

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    1. Jonathan: Thanks for the comment. I will send it to you so you do not have to wait.

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  4. I have always thought I should read a Lisa Scottoline book: this one sounds good. I love the idea that you got carried away by the legal details and the murder took you by surprise. And that is an interesting point about the warm family relationships.

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