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Lisa Scottoline continues to enthrall a growing legion of critics and fans with her superb talent for creating gripping, unpredictable stories that rival the best of John Grisham, Scott Turow, and Richard North Patterson. Filled with twisting plots, unforgettable flesh-and-blood characters, and absorbing dramatic tension, her previous national bestsellers have propelled her into the top ranks of legal suspense. Now, this acclaimed author is back withMistaken Identity, her most ...
Lisa Scottoline continues to enthrall a growing legion of critics and fans with her superb talent for creating gripping, unpredictable stories that rival the best of John Grisham, Scott Turow, and Richard North Patterson. Filled with twisting plots, unforgettable flesh-and-blood characters, and absorbing dramatic tension, her previous national bestsellers have propelled her into the top ranks of legal suspense. Now, this acclaimed author is back withMistaken Identity, her most thoughtful, riveting, and richest novel yet.
Life holds few surprises for Bennie Rosato, head of her own Philadelphia law firm. As a criminal attorney now specializing in police misconduct cases, she's seen the noblest and most deviant aspects of human nature. But nothing can prepare her for the moment she enters a maximum-security prison to meet her new client, Alice Connolly, face to face. Accused of brutally murdering her lover, a highly decorated police detective, Connolly claims the police framed her. A defendant protesting her innocence is not unusual for Bennie. What shocks her is that Connelly bears an uncanny physical resemblance to her. "Pleased to meet you. I'm your twin. Your identical twin," Connolly tells the astonished lawyer. But Bennie grew up as an only child, or so she thought. She has a law firm, a handsome young lover, and a golden retriever; she doesn't have a twin. Or does she?
Connolly knows too many intimate details about Bennie's life and family for the resemblance to be just coincidental. And there is something about the woman that compels the intrigued attorney to defend her, against her better judgment. Taking the case with the trial only a week away, Bennie plunges into the mystery of the murder, as well as her own identity and her family's dark secrets. Is Connolly innocent? And is she Bennie's unknown sister? It is not until Bennie takes the case to verdict that she will finally learn the truth, which threatens to change her life.
A legal thriller, a courtroom drama, and an exploration of the emotional bonds that define our lives and those we love, Mistaken Identity is a masterful achievement that takes the legal thriller to a new level as it resoundingly confirms Lisa Scottoline's place as one of the premier writers of suspense fiction today.
Lisa Scottoline has been praised as "the female John Grisham" by People Magazine and confirms that honor with her taut new thriller, Mistaken Identity. Kirkus, in a starred review, calls it her "biggest book yet" and the Coca Cola Company chose Mistaken Identity to promote the pleasures of reading by putting an excerpt in 10 million packages of Diet Coke.
Interview with Lisa Scottoline
Q: What first gave you the inspiration to write?
Scottoline: I don't know, to tell you the truth. I was very happy as a lawyer, but when my life changed and I had a child, I had to find another way to earn a living. Basically, I saw that John Grisham and other male writers were making a lot of really good stories out of being a trial lawyer. And I thought, why are there no women doing this? I mean, I had studied English when I was in school at Penn, and I thought, gee, I should be able to do this. So, the impetus was seeing the genre explode, and understanding that there was a niche that wasn't being filled.
Q: How is writing a new novel similar to preparing for a trial?
Scottoline: That's an interesting question. Actually, it is very similar, particularly with suspense. My aim is to make the books move fast, especially with Mistaken Identity, which works on a lot of different levels. As a trial lawyer, you are trained to figure out which sentences matter, and throw out the ones that don't matter. You get up before a jury and tell them only the important facts, in exactly the order you want, so that you will produce in your audience a reaction. And that is exactly what I aim to do on the page; suspense to me means including only the relevant sentences to create a book readers won't want to put down. For Bennie Rosato, the protagonist of Mistaken Identity, I ask what are the sentences that will make people understand her view of the world, understand her.
Q: Tell me a little of your view of characterization.
Scottoline: I think characterization matters a lot, particularly in legal thrillers. I've read quite a few books in this genre, and the stuff that used to fly--like Earl Stanley Gardner or Perry Mason--just doesn't work any more. Not to detract from those books, they're wonderful, but people are much more sophisticated today in their knowledge of law, legal ethics, and what actually happens in a court room. The O.J. case educated everybody, you know? For example, in my book Rough Justice, which was published pre-O.J., I had to define what a sidebar was. Now, during the O.J. trial, people were running around with pins that said "Too Many Sidebars." It was remarkable! So, for me, that trial saved me a ton of time, because I didn't have to define things for people anymore. But it also put on extra demands to make each book even more compelling since readers won't buy that a lawyer can crack somebody on the witness stand, because that really doesn't happen. In Perry Mason's day people thought it could, but it doesn't. So today [the legal thriller] has to be written at a higher level.
Q: How much "trial preparation"--which is to say, firsthand research--do you like to do before sitting down to write?
Scottoline: Tons. For instance, I took boxing lessons for Mistaken Identity. It would have been easy to write "the girl who goes into the gym and doesn't know what she is doing" character. But for the plot, I also had to create a credible boxer, and that is why I had to hang out with some boxers. The lessons were a great vehicle for that level of credibility. I'm still a lousy boxer, but now I've got my details down.
Q: Obviously you don't have be a good boxer to write well about it.
Scottoline: As Norman Mailer proved, or Joyce Carol Oates! She actually wrote a nice piece on boxing. But I think I could take her once I got my jab going.
Q: Your new book, Mistaken Identity, is inspired by something that really happened to you.
Scottoline: Not too long ago, I learned that I had a sister I didn't know about. Ironically, I had always wanted a sister, and it was a little startling to actually find out, past the age of thirty, that I had one. She was searching for her birth parents, and that was how she found me. I mean, I thought I had known my family boundaries, and suddenly, here was this total stranger who looked a lot like me. So, questions obviously arose like where does she fit in, and how does it feel to have this person in my life? When something that cool happens to a writer, you have to use it!
Q: What was your toughest challenge writing Mistaken Identity? What narrative problem kept you up at night?
Scottoline: Every single thing. I sweat every single page, every sentence. And this book was something even more challenging, trying to mix a family story with a courtroom case with a thriller. I had no interest in simply writing the Scottoline family saga, but I wanted to use that story of the sisters in an entertaining book you can't put down. I feel very strongly about that: for $24 the reader had better be entertained.
Q: The first chapter of Mistaken Identity was posted on your web site and you invited visitors to give you editorial feedback. What was that like?
Scottoline: The response was amazing, and very helpful. Like any writer, I'm alone in a garret, not sure that what I am producing is working. And I thought it would be interesting to communicate with readers and people who are interested in writing. It would be a new way of getting feedback. I'm told that Kurt Vonnegut (and others) used to go around and read his works in progress. The tradition of reading works in progress made a lot of sense when you could travel around, but that wasn't convenient for me. So I posted it on my site. I mean everyone posts a chapter, a teaser, but the innovation here was to post a work that wasn't yet finished, still in the writing stage. Thousands of people edited that chapter, and I read every single one of them. The experiment was very interesting, and I will undoubtedly do it again.
Q: What is behind Bennie's law firm, what gave you the idea to make it all female?
Scottoline: I just didn't want to write a series character. Some writers of legal thrillers like them, such as Scott Turow, who has recurring people. The other example is John Grisham whose books are stand-alones. But I wanted to have a little of both, so I thought why not do an ensemble, in this case the law firm. And since I tended to be doing women lawyers--straight out of the "write what you know" school--I decided to put them all in the same firm to see what would happen. It's fun, because they have quite different personalities--though they are all, suspiciously, blonde.
Q: Bennie is a strong character, sufficiently strong, it seems, to carry a TV or feature film. Is that something you want to pursue?
Scottoline: Well, yes, [the book] was optioned for a TV series. I think the development company saw the same continuing possibilities as I did about these twins, Bennie and Alice.
Q: From Court TV to Judge Judy, Americans seem obsessed with legal issues. Why do you think law is such an entertainment commodity to us?
Scottoline: Because it's very dramatic, life and death stuff. And more than that it is all about winning and losing. Every day, when I practiced law, I won or lost two or three things--a motion here, or a trial decision there. Vast sums of money change hands. Things happen, and the lawyer is very much a player in that drama. Lawyers can be very interesting, effective people. And I also get a sense, from the email I receive from readers, that in addition to the characters, they really enjoy the question about justice and ethics. You know, what is justice? What is just in a certain situation? That is constantly fascinating to people, and every day there is a new compelling legal story on the news. Every case is a great story: each is personal, emotional, and a tale about justice. How can you beat that!? You can't!
Bennie Rosato shuddered when she caught sight of the place. The building stretched three blocks long and stood eight stories tall. It lacked conventional windows; instead, slits of bulletproof glass scored its brick facade. Spiked guard towers anchored its corners and a double row of cyclone fencing topped with razor wire encircled its perimeter, attesting to its maximum security status. Exiled to the industrial outskirts of the city, Philadelphia's Central Corrections housed murderers, sociopaths, and rapists. At least when they weren't on parole.
Bennie pulled into a parking space in the half-empty visitors' lot, climbed out of her Ford Expedition, and walked down the sidewalk in June's humidity, wrestling with her reluctance. She'd stopped practicing criminal law and had promised herself she'd never see the prison again until the telephone call from a woman inmate who was awaiting trial. The woman had been charged with the shooting murder of her boyfriend, a detective with the Philadelphia police, but claimed a group of uniforms had framed her. Bennie specialized in prosecuting police misconduct, so she'd slid a fresh legal pad into her briefcase and had driven up to interview the inmate.
The opportunity to change read a metal plaque over the door, and Bennie managed not to laugh. The prison had been designed with the belief that vocational training would convert heroin dealers to keypunch operators and since nobody had any better ideas, still operated on the assumption. Bennie opened the heavy gray door, an inexplicably large dent buckling its middle, and went inside. She was immediately assaulted by stifling air, thick with sweat, disinfectant, and a cacophony ofrapid-fire Spanish, street English, and languages Bennie didn't recognize. Whenever she entered the prison, Bennie felt as if she were walking into another world, and the sight evoked in her a familiar dismay.
The waiting room, packed with inmates' families, looked more like day care than prison. Infants in arms rattled plastic keys in primary colors, babies crawled from lap to lap, and a toddler practiced his first steps in the aisle, grabbing a plastic sandal for support as he staggered past. Bennie knew the statistics: nationwide, seventy-five percent of women inmates are mothers. The average prison term for a woman lasts a childhood. No matter whether Bennie's clients had been brought here by circumstance or corruption, she could never forget that their children were the ultimate victims, ignored at our peril. She couldn't fix it no matter how hard she'd tried and she couldn't stop trying, so she had finally turned away.
Bennie suppressed the thought and threaded her way to the front desk while the crowd socialized. Two older women, one white and one black, exchanged recipes written on index cards. Hispanic and white teenagers huddled together, a bouquet of backward baseball caps laughing over photos of a trip to Hershey Park. Two Vietnamese boys shared the sports section with a white kid across the aisle. Unless prison procedures had changed, these families would be the Monday group, visiting inmates with last names A through F, and over time they'd become friends. Bennie used to think their friendliness a form of denial until she realized it was profoundly human, like the camaraderie she'd experienced in hospital waiting rooms, in the worst circumstances.
The guards at the front desk, a woman and a man, were on the telephone. Female and male guards worked at the prison because both sexes were incarcerated here, in separate wings. Behind the desk was a panel of smoked glass that looked opaque but concealed the prison's large, modern control center. Security monitors glowed faintly through the glass, their chalky gray screens ever-changing. A profile moved in front of a lighted screen like a storm cloud in front of the moon.
Bennie waited patiently for a guard, which cut against her grain. She questioned authority for a living, but she had learned not to challenge prison guards. They performed daily under conditions at least as threatening as those facing cops, but were acutely aware they earned less and weren't the subject of any cool TV shows. No kid grew up wanting to be a prison guard.
While Bennie waited, a little boy with bells on his shoelaces toddled over and stared up at her. She was used to the reaction even though she wasn't conventionally pretty; Bennie stood six feet tall, strong and sturdy. Her broad shoulders were emphasized by the padding of her yellow linen suit, and wavy hair the color of pale honey spilled loose to her back. Her features were more honest than beautiful, but big blondes caught the eye, approving or no. Bennie smiled at the child to show she wasn't a banana.
"You an attorney?" asked the female guard, hanging up the phone. She was an African-American woman in a jet-black uniform and pinned to her heavy breast had been a badge of gold electroplate. The guard's hair had been combed back into a tiny bun from which stiff hairs sprung like a pinwheel, and her short sleeves were rolled up, macho style.
"Yeah, I'm a lawyer," Bennie answered. "I used to have an ID card but I'll be damned if I can find it."
"I'll look it up. Gimme your driver's license. Fill out the request slip. Sign the OV book for official visitors," the guard said on autopilot, and pushed a yellow clip ID across the counter.
Bennie produced her license, scribbled a request slip, and signed the log book. "I'm here to see Alice Connolly. Unit D, Cell 53."
"What's in the briefcase?"
"Put your purse in the lockers. No cell phones, cameras, or recording devices. Take a seat. We'll call you when they bring her down to the interview room."
Many book clubs have written Lisa asking for questions to guide their discussion, so Lisa came up with a bunch for each book. Her goal in writing books is to entertain, so it goes without saying that Lisa wants you to have lots of fun discussing her books, and has reflected that in her questions. She provides the talking points, and you and your group shape the conversation. So go ahead, get together, chat it up with your friends, discuss books, kids, and relationships, but by all means, have fun.
About the author
Lisa Scottoline is a New York Times bestselling author and former trial lawyer. She has won the Edgar Award, the highest prize in suspense fiction, and the Distinguished Author Award from the Weinberg Library of the University of Scranton. She has served as the Leo Goodwin Senior Professor of Law and Popular Culture at Nova Southeastern Law School, and her novels are used by bar associations for the ethical issues they present. Her books are published in more than twenty languages. She lives with her family in the Philadelphia area.
Posted February 13, 2007
Posted May 15, 2010
Love her writing style. Now I am hooked to her books.
Just finished "Look Again" Awesome.
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 30, 2000
Powerful novel from an author who continually raises her own bar, Mistaken Identity is what legal fiction should be all about--compelling story, strong character development, and dialogue which jumps off the pages. This novel has more than enough detail(backed by solid research by the author) to be believable, yet general enough so that you don't have to be a lawyer or judge to like the story. If you've ever had to suspend disbelief in order to be effective, this book is for you. This is no 'formula' book. It plays on so many different levels besides law. It peels away the layers of relationships--father/daughter, sibling/sibling, male/female, and various other triangles--while being very action oriented. Clearly a page-turner of the first degree. Ready for your next one, Ms. Scottoline!
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 19, 2000
Started the book on an airplane and had to stay up all night to finish it. If you like Grisham and Cornwell, this one is a must-read!
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 13, 2014
I love by Rosato and Associates books written by Lisa Scottolini. I would recommend to anyone who enjoys legal thrillers are even just a good mystery. The characters are well developed and likable. The story is face paced and never dull. Would have liked to have seen a better ending.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 3, 2014
Posted November 19, 2013
I thought this would be a good story after reading the overview. After reading a few chapters I am realizing I was wrong and finding it very difficult to continue. I find it is over descriptive as well as redundant. Since I am one not to waste money, even if it is just 3.99, I will continue to the end and hope at some point it get's better.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 15, 2013
Posted September 20, 2013
Posted July 5, 2013
Posted March 9, 2013
Posted July 21, 2012
Posted April 10, 2010
Posted April 12, 2009
I thought this was a great storyline. A successful lawyer not only finding out she has a twin, but she is in jail for murder. I enjoyed reading the book but wish that it would have ended differently. The book kept me involved throughout but then lost me at the end.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 16, 2008
Lisa Scottoline never fails to keep my attention and she once again met the challenge in Mistaken Identity. I thought it was a great book that kept me wanting to read more. I thought it was the right amount of pages and the ending although leaves you hanging is not terrible. All is all I think it is a book that should not be missed.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 26, 2007
Added subplots were found distracting and counterproductive. The inferences relating to prior conflicts between characters needed further explanation. As it stood, it appeared more like the author was adding filler instead of presenting viable information. The conclusion seemed hasty and unnecessary.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 25, 2004
The inmate looked at Bennie Rosato squarely in the eye and said `¿ Im the twin you did not know you had.¿¿ They were mirror images of each other except that one was in prison for allegedly murdering her lover, and one a big time successful lawyer with a firm of her own. Disregarding the conflicts of interest and the emotional turmoils that arose, Bennie set out to prove Alice Connoly¿s innocence while simultaneously dealing with family secrets and betrayals. With a quick pace marked by short chapters, the author is determined to trap the reader into the plot and scores. Readers must be on their toes to catch up with the numerous characters and the misshapen plots. The dialogue and writing was fast and fun. The author¿s strong legal background was put to good use, and her descriptions were unparalleled ( you can imagine Judge Guthrie¿s tented fingers as he listened to the trial). The aroma of a police conspiracy can be whiffed here and there, egging us to cry out for `¿Justice! Off with their heads!¿¿ The ending was nicely wrapped up as it threw a shocking twist straight at us. Recommended to all those who enjoy a fast paced read with a legal bent to it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 22, 2004
Posted November 5, 2003
Posted April 3, 2001
This book (part of) originally showed up in a six-pack as a soft drink promotion. I read Chapter One and was hooked. The book is even more fun than life itself. If, like me, you are a trial lawyer and are from Philadelphia, this winner is for you. This lawyer has to prepare a capital case defense in just a few days. All lawyers love this gambit. Full of surprises.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.