Picks and Pans Review: Killer Smile

UPDATED 06/07/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 06/07/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT

By Lisa Scottoline

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An attorney at Rosato & Associates, a Philadelphia firm comprised entirely of women, Mary DiNunzio enjoys playing detective as much as she does practicing law. In this follow-up to Scottoline's best-selling Dead Ringer, the young widow is hired by the estate of Amadeo Brandolini, an Italian immigrant who committed suicide in an American internment camp during World War II, to sue the U.S. government for reparations. A hunch that Brandolini may have been murdered leads the tenacious DiNunzio (like the author, an Italian-American who grew up in South Philly) to a long-concealed conspiracy—and into unexpected danger.

A former trial lawyer and an Edgar Award-winner, Scottoline does a commendable job of combining a murder mystery with historical fact. Along with creating a sympathetic protagonist, she vividly evokes Italian-American culture and explores a difficult moment in U.S. history. But Killer Smile moves more slowly than its humorous predecessor (whose sharp-tongued heroine—Mary's boss, Bennie Rosato—was more fearless and fun). The first two-thirds of Scottoline's thriller proceed at a glacial pace. Only in the final chapters does it spring to life and become an exciting whodunit with an ending that's both surprising and satisfying.

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