“Scottoline writes riveting thrillers that keep me up all night, with plots that twist and turn.” –Harlan Coben
Ten-year-old Patrick O'Brien is a natural target at school. Shy, dyslexic, and small for his age, he tries to hide his first-grade reading level from everyone: from his classmates, from the grandfather who cares for him, and from the teachers who are supposed to help him. But the real trouble begins when Patrick is accused of attacking a school aide. The aide promptly quits and sues the boy, his family, and the school district. Patrick's grandfather turns to the law firm of Rosato & DiNunzio for help, and Mary DiNunzio becomes Patrick's true champion and his only hope for security and justice. But there is more to the story than meets the eye and Patrick might be more troubled than he seems. With twists at every turn and secrets about the family coming to light, Mary DiNunzio might have found the case that can make her a true protector, or break her heart...?
With Lisa Scottoline’s trademark emotional depth and fast-paced action, Damaged will have readers riveted to the last page as they root for the beloved characters and their fight for justice.
“Outstanding…Tensions mount until the story concludes with a satisfying, unexpected twist.” –Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Damaged
About the Author
Date of Birth:July 1, 1955
Place of Birth:Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Education:B.A., University of Pennsylvania, 1976; J.D., University of Pennsylvania Law School, 1981
Read an Excerpt
A Rosato & Dinunzio Novel
By Lisa Scottoline
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Smart Blonde, LLC
All rights reserved.
Mary DiNunzio hurried down the pavement, late to work because she'd had to stop by their new caterer and try crabmeat dumplings with Asian pears. Her stomach grumbled, unaccustomed to shellfish for breakfast, much less pears of any ethnicity. Her wedding was only two weeks away, and their first caterer had gone bankrupt, keeping their deposit and requiring her to pick a new menu. She had approved the mediocre crabmeat dumplings, proof that her standards for her wedding had started at Everything Must Be Perfect, declined to Good Enough, and ended at Whatever, I Do.
It was early October in Philly, unjustifiably humid, and everyone sweated as they hustled to work. Businesspeople flowed around her, plugged into earbuds and reading their phone screens, but Mary didn't need an electronic device to be distracted, she had her regrets. She'd made some stupid decisions in her life, but by far the stupidest was not using a wedding planner. She earned enough money to hire one, but she'd thought she could do it herself. She'd figured it wasn't rocket science and she had a law degree, which should count for more than the ability to sue the first caterer for free.
Mary didn't know what she'd been thinking. She was a partner at Rosato & DiNunzio, so she was already working too hard to take a honeymoon, plus it was a second job to manage her wacky family in full- blown premarital frenzy. Her fiancé, Anthony, was away, leaving her to deal with her soon-to-be mother-in-law Elvira, or El Virus. Meanwhile, tonight was the final fitting for her dress and tomorrow night was her hair-and-makeup trial. She was beginning to think of her entire wedding as a trial, a notion she hated despite the fact that she was a trial lawyer. Maybe she needed a new job, too.
Mary kicked herself as she walked along, a skill not easily performed by anyone but a Guilt Professional. She had no idea why she always thought she should do everything herself. She only ended up stressed-out, every time. She was forever trying to prove something, but she didn't know what or to whom. She felt like she'd been in a constant state of performance since the day she was born, and she didn't know when the show would be over. Maybe when she was married. Or dead.
She reached her office building, went through the revolving door, and crossed the air-conditioned lobby, smiling for the security guard. The elevator was standing open and empty, so she climbed inside, pushed the UP button, and put on her game face. She was running fifteen minutes late for her first client, which only added to her burden of guilt, since she hated to be late for anything or anyone. Mary's friends knew that if she was fifteen minutes late, she must have been abducted.
She checked her appearance in the stainless-steel doors, like a corporate mirror. Her reflection was blurry, but she could see the worry lines in her forehead, and her dark blonde hair was swept back into a low ponytail because she didn't have time to blow it dry. Her contacts were glued to her eyes since she'd spent the night emailing wedding guests who hadn't RSVP'd. She had on a fitted navy dress and she was even wearing pantyhose, which qualified as dressed up at Rosato & DiNunzio.
Mary watched impatiently as the floor numbers changed. Her legal practice was general, which meant she handled a variety of cases, mostly state-court matters for low damages, and her client base came from the middle-class families and small businesses of South Philly, where she'd grown up. She wasn't one of those lawyers who got their self-esteem from handling big, federal-court cases for Fortune 500 clients. Not that she got her self-esteem from within. Mary was the Neighborhood Girl Who Made Good, so she got her self-esteem from being universally beloved, which was why she was never, ever late. Until now.
"Hi, Marshall!" Mary called out to the receptionist, as soon as the elevator doors opened. She glanced around the waiting room, which was empty, and hurried to the reception desk. Marshall Trow was more the firm's Earth Goddess than its receptionist, dressing the part in her flowing boho dress, long brown braid, and pretty, wholesome features, devoid of makeup. Marshall's demeanor was straight-up Namaste, which was probably a job requirement for working for lawyers.
"Good morning." Marshall smiled as Mary approached.
"Where's O'Brien? Is he here already? Did you get my text?"
"Yes, and don't worry. I put him in conference room C with fresh coffee and muffins."
"Thank you so much." Mary breathed a relieved sigh.
"I chatted with him briefly. He found you from our website, you know. He's an older man, maybe in his seventies. He seems very nice. Quiet."
"Good. I don't even know what the case is about. He didn't want to talk about it over the phone."
Marshall lifted an eyebrow. "Then you don't know who your opposing counsel is?"
"No, who?" Mary was just about to leave the desk, but stopped.
"Machiavelli! The Dark Prince of South Philly." Mary felt her competitive juices flowing. "I always wanted a case against him."
"Machiavelli can't be his real name, can it? That has to be fake."
"Yes, it's his real name, I know him from high school. His family claims to be direct descendants of the real Machiavelli. That's the part that's fake. His father owns a body shop." Mary thought back. "I went to Goretti, a girl's school, and he went to Neumann, our brother school. We didn't have classes with the boys, but I remember him from the dances. He was so slick, a BS artist, even then."
"Is he a good lawyer?" Marshall handed Mary a few phone messages and a stack of morning mail.
"Honestly, yes." Mary had watched Machiavelli build a booming practice the same way she had, drawing from South Philly. The stories about his legal prowess were legendary, though they were exaggerated by his public relations firm. In high school, he had been voted Class President, Prom King, and Most Likely to Succeed because he was cunning, handsome, and basically, Machiavellian.
"Thanks." Mary took off down the hallway, with one stop to make before her office. Her gut churned, but it could have been the dumplings. The real Niccolo Machiavelli had thought it was better to be feared than loved, and his alleged descendant followed suit. Nick Machiavelli was feared, not loved, and on the other hand, Mary was loved, but not feared. She always knew that one day they would meet in a battle, and that when they did, it would be a fight between good and evil, with billable hours.
Mary reached her best friend Judy's office, where she ducked inside and set down a foam container of leftover dumplings amid the happy clutter on the desk. Judy Carrier was one of those people who could eat constantly and never gain weight, like a mythical beast or maybe a girl unicorn.
"Good morning!" Judy looked up from her laptop with a broad grin. She had a space between her two front teeth that she made look adorable. Her cheery face was as round as the sun, framed by punky blonde hair, with large blue eyes and a turned-up nose. Judy was the firm's legal genius, though she dressed artsy, like today she had on a boxy hot pink T-shirt with yellow shorts and orange Crocs covered by stuck-on multicolored daisies.
"Please tell me that you're not going to court dressed like that."
"I'm not, but I think I look cute." Judy reached for the container. "What did you bring me? Spring rolls? Spanakopita?"
"Guess what, I have a new case — against Nick Machiavelli."
"Ha! That name cracks me up every time I hear it. What a fraud."
Judy's blue eyes lit up as she opened the lid of the container. "Yummy."
"I'm finally going up against him."
"You'll kick his ass." Judy opened the drawer that contained her secret stash of plastic forks.
"Don't underestimate him."
"I'm not, but you're better." Judy got a fork and shut the drawer. "What kind of case is it?"
"I don't know yet. The client's in the conference room."
"Meanwhile, I thought you were going vegetarian." Judy frowned at the dumplings. "This smells like crabmeat. Crabmeat isn't vegetarian."
"It's vegetarian enough," Mary said on her way out. "I gotta go."
"There's no such thing as vegetarian enough!"
Mary hurried to her office, dumped her purse, mail, and messenger bag inside, grabbed her laptop, and hustled to conference room C.CHAPTER 2
"Good morning, I'm Mary DiNunzio." Mary closed the door as O'Brien tucked his napkin in the pocket of his worn khakis, which he had on with a boxy navy sports jacket that hung on his long, bony frame. His blue-striped tie lay against his chest, and Mary noticed as she approached him that his oxford shirt had a fraying collar. Edward's hooded eyes were an aged hazel green behind wire-rimmed glasses, with visible bifocal windows. His face was long and lined, and his crow's-feet deep. Folds bracketed his mouth, and age-spots dotted his temples and forehead. His complexion was ruddy, though Mary could smell the minty tang of a fresh shave.
"Edward O'Brien," O'Brien said, walking over, his bald head tilting partway down. He was probably six-foot-two, but he hunched over in a way that made him seem like a much older man than he was, which was probably in his seventies.
"Please accept my apologies for being late." Mary shook his slim hand.
"Not at all. And call me Edward."
"Great. Please, sit down." Mary sat down with her laptop and gestured him into the seat, catty-corner to her left.
"Thanks." Edward sank into the fabric swivel seat, bending his long legs slowly at the knee.
"So how can I help you, Edward?"
"This is a free consultation, correct? That's what it said on the website." Edward frowned, his forehead lined deeply.
"Yes, completely free." Mary opened her laptop and hit the RECORD button discreetly, so he wouldn't be self-conscious. "I hope you don't mind if I record the session."
"It's fine. I'm here because of my grandson, Patrick. I'll begin at the beginning."
"Please do." Mary liked his reserved, gentlemanly manner. His teeth were even but tea-stained, which she found oddly charming.
"Patrick is ten, and he's in the fifth grade at Grayson Elementary School in the city. We live in Juniata." Edward pursed his lips, which turned down at the corners. "He's got special needs. He's dyslexic, and I think I need a lawyer to help with his school. I should have dealt with it before."
"Okay, understood." Mary got her bearings, now that she knew this was a special education case. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a federal law, students with learning disabilities were entitled to an education that met their needs at no cost. She'd been developing an expertise in special ed cases and had represented many children with dyslexia, a language-based learning disability. There were differences in symptoms and degrees of dyslexia along the spectrum, but most dyslexic children couldn't decode, or put a sound to the symbol on the page, and therefore couldn't phonetically figure out the word because the symbols on the page had no meaning.
"He can't read at all. He thinks I don't know, but I do."
"Not at all, even at ten?" Mary didn't hide the dismay in her tone. Sadly, it wasn't unheard of in Philly's public schools.
"No, and his spelling and letters are terrible."
Mary nodded, knowing that most dyslexic children had spelling problems as well as handwriting problems, or dysgraphia, since handwriting skills came from the same area of the brain as language acquisition.
"I read to him sometimes, and he likes that, and I guess I kind of gave up trying to teach him to read. I thought he'd pick it up at school."
"Have they identified his learning disability at school?"
"Yes. In second grade."
"Does he have an IEP?" Mary asked, because under the law, schools were required to evaluate a child and formulate an individualized education program, or an IEP, to set forth the services and support he was supposed to receive and to help him achieve in his areas of need.
"Yes, but it isn't helping. I have it with me." Edward patted a battered mailing envelope in front of him, but Mary needed some background.
"Before we get too far, where are Patrick's parents?"
"They passed. Patrick is my daughter Suzanne's only child, and she passed away four years ago in December. On the twelfth, right before Christmas." Edward's face darkened. "I have no other children and my wife, Patty, passed away a decade ago."
"Thank you. My daughter Suzanne was killed by a drunk driver." Edward puckered his lower lip, wrinkling deeply around his mouth. "I retired when that happened. I'm raising Patrick. I was an accountant, self-employed."
"Again, I'm so sorry, and Patrick is lucky to have you." Mary admired him. "How old was Patrick when his mother passed?"
"Six, a few months into first grade at Grayson Elementary. He took it very hard."
"I'm sure." Mary felt for him and Patrick. Special education cases could be emotional because they involved an entire family, and nothing was more important to a family than its children. Mary felt that special ed practice was the intersection of love and law, so it was tailor-made for her. This work had made her both the happiest, and the saddest, she'd ever been as a lawyer.
"Finally, he's doing great at home. It's school that's the problem. The kids know he can't read and they tease him. It's been that way for a long time but this year, it's getting worse."
Mary had seen it before, though dyslexia could be treated with intensive interventions, the earlier the better. "How's his self-esteem?"
"Not good, he thinks he's stupid." Edward frowned. "I tell him he's not but he doesn't believe me."
"That's not uncommon with dyslexic children. The first thing anyone learns at school is reading, so when a child can't do something that seems so easy for the other kids, they feel dumb, inferior, broken. It goes right to the core. I've had an expert tell me that reading isn't just about reading, it's the single most important thing that creates or destroys a child's psyche." Mary made a mental note to go back to the subject. "Are you Patrick's legal guardian?"
"It's not like I went to court to get a judge to say so, but we're blood. That makes him mine, in my book."
"That's not the case legally, but we can deal with that another time. What about Patrick's father? How did he die?"
"He broke up with Suzanne when she got pregnant. She met him up at Penn State. She was in the honors program but when she got pregnant, she dropped out. Suzanne could have been an accountant, too." Edward shook his head. "Anyway, we heard he died in a motorcycle accident, two years later."
"And when Suzanne dropped out, did she come home?"
"Yes, and I was happy to have her. Patrick was born, and Suzanne devoted herself to him. Since she passed, I'm all Patrick has now. I'm his only family."
"I see." Mary's heart went out to them both, but she had to get back on track. "When did you notice his reading problems?"
"Suzanne did, in kindergarten." Edward ran his fingers over his bald head. "Then after she passed, I would try to get him to read with me, and we'd get books from the library. He didn't know the words, not even the little ones like 'the.' He couldn't remember them either. But he's smart."
"I'm sure he is." Mary knew dyslexic children had high IQs, but their reading disability thwarted their progress in school. They often had retrieval issues, too, so they forgot names and the like.
"He does better when there's pictures, that's why he likes comic books. He draws a lot, too. He's very good at art."
"So back to the IEP. May I see it?"
"Sure." Edward opened the manila envelope and extracted a wrinkled packet, then slid it across the table.
"Bear with me." Mary skimmed the first section of the IEP, and the first thing she looked at was Present Levels, which told her where a student was in reading, writing, math, and behaviors. Patrick was only on a first-grade level in both reading and math, even though he was in fifth grade. The IEP showed that Patrick had been evaluated in first grade but not since then. Mary looked up. "Is this all you have? There should have been another evaluation. They're required to reevaluate him every three years."
"I didn't know that. I guess they didn't."
Mary turned the page, noting that Patrick had scored higher than average on his IQ tests, but because he couldn't read, he had scored poorly on his achievement testing, which a district psychologist had administered, and the IRA, the curriculum-based assessment test that the teachers administered. She looked up again. "Is he in a special ed classroom or a regular classroom?"
Excerpted from Damaged by Lisa Scottoline. Copyright © 2016 Smart Blonde, LLC. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I liked the storyline and the characters and the ending too!
Damaged by Lisa Scottoline is 400+ pages of pure wonderful reading. I have been reading the Rosato & DiNunzio series from the very beginning and each one just gets better. What I really enjoy is that each book stands alone. There is a beginning and an ending, no cliffhangers, no to be continued, just a great story from beginning to end. With Damaged I started reading and instantly knew that Patrick was a keeper. This little boy needed someone to keep him safe, advocate for him, and just love him. Mary is exactly what was needed. Mary’s instant connection is believable. Although she only knew him for a few days before she stepped up to be his guardian, their bond was undeniable and strong. It was nice to see Mary step up for him, putting her own life on hold, and even putting her future in question. Yet, she never stepped over the line and put her job on the line. She followed the laws, she listened to her lawyers, and she did as the court asked. He won Mary’s heart but he also won mine. I waited and waited and waited for the other shoe to drop for Patrick and Mary. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I was sure that they would have to have patience and work to be together. There was hope throughout the book that everything would work out as it was suppose to. I love the little twist near the end. Lisa Scottoline did an amazing job with this story. I recommend picking up your own copy.
Love all her books including this one!
Still reviewing the series here that centers around a female driving law firm and their investigations that are spurred on by the cases that are brought their way. This fourth book in the series returns the attention back to the new partner, Mary DiNunzio. She is weeks away from her wedding and a case that is in and out of her wheel house lands on her doorstep. Part of the case that takes place in this book is about special education and the school system and the other part deals with child abuse. This book was hard to read at spots. There were a few moments where I had to close the book and take a step back because as the reader I wanted to reach in and help Mary fight for the good of this kid. I have said this earlier about this series, but I love how the cases are all self contained within each book, but there is a lot of character development that helps, so you don't want to skip around in this series. I felt as though with this book in particular this case really affected Mary's personal life and I just enjoyed seeing her take her work home with her like us normal people do!
Guess I am wrong gender. Got interested a couple times but closed it when the father showed up.
Love the book
Heartbreaking story of a little boy who has so much happen to him at such a young age and is defenseless. Makes me wonder how many children there are out there who are experiencing the same thing. Thank Heavens for someone like Mary DiNunzio who takes her job seriously, has a big heart to go with it and goes the extra mile for justice. There are happy endings out there, especially for Patrick O’Brien.
Some times she hits it, some times she doesn't. For example, in this series, I LOVED,"Betrayed," and "Corrupted." I did not like, "Accused," or "Damaged." Sorry, this one didn't do it for me.....
Not my ultimate favorite but it was good.
Damaged was the perfect title for this book. Mary DiNunzio is busy planning her wedding which is about 2 weeks away when she has an appointment with a new client. He is the grandfather of a 10 year old boy who he is raising and he was served papers. A teacher's aide is suing him alleging that the boy tried to attack him and he is afraid to return to work. The boy, Patrick, is also dyslexic and suffers from anxiety. Mary specializes in special needs cases so she decides to take the case. In her process of questioning people who know Patrick and talking to Patrick himself she finds out how damaged he really is. The only person he has is his grandfather. His mother died when he was little and he never knew his father and was told he had died. The grandfather dies in his sleep or that's what Mary assumes when after spending all day trying to contact him then deciding to go to the house to check things out. Things spiral out of control from there. Patrick has become connected with Mary in just a few days and wants to stay with her after Mary suggested it. DHS won't allow it as Mary is not approved to be a foster parent. She goes to court after filing emergency paperwork to get temporary custody but loses.. She has found a special school that can help him as the school he was in wasn't doing anything for him regarding his dyslexia. She needs money from the estate so she contacts the lawyer who did the will and he happens to be the executor. Says he will take care of everything including the funeral. She can contact the bank and the funds will be available. It is quite surprising the ending. I never figured it would end the way it did. A great read. I love Mary DiNunzio and her family including the 3 Tony's. Her interactions with other lawyers is interesting too. There is one you would just love to slap him.
This is the fourth book in the Rosato & DiNunzio series and it was one of the best. If you enjoy Legal Thrillers, then this is the book for you. Be warned that this book is also very emotional and a bit of a tear-jerker at some points, but a tough book to put down once you start reading it. Mary DiNunzio has been hired by a grandfather to advocate as well as defend his grandsonPatrick, a 10 year old boy, who is has dyslexia and anxiety issues. They are being sued by a teacher's aide saying that Patrick attacked him with scissors. He has quit his job and is claiming that it was fear. The other part of the case is that Patrick has not received an adequate education and he is in grade five, but can not read. He is being teased and bullied by classmates. When Mary gets involved it is determined that Patrick was not only punched in the face by this teacher's aid, but has been sexually abused by him as well. When Edward ends up dead, the case takes an unexpected turn. While all of this is going on, Mary is getting ready for her upcoming wedding. Anthony is out of town and Mary has trouble getting a hold of him to discuss the situation. Is there trouble in paradise. Once again there is an outstanding supporting cast of characters. Mary's parents are loving, caring parents who support her no matter what and the three Tony's add humour to the story. Her colleagues have roles in this story with a storyline for John, the newest member of the firm and the only male. A great read and a definite recommendation to those who love legal thrillers as well as family drama and mysteries. I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I love Lisa Scottoline and this book met all my expectations. It was yet another one that I could not put down. I felt so sorry for that little boy. He loses his parents and then right after his grandfather hires DiNunzio, the little boy loses him as well. There is really no one fighting for this little boy who has serious issues. The characters were well written and I did not want to leave them at the end of the book, I became that attached to them. Usually I'm not a big fan of legal thrillers as there is too much attention and explaining of the law. This one had just enough that it didn't bind you down or put you to sleep. I would definitely recommend reading this. Huge thanks to St. Martin's Press for approving my request and to Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
Mary DiNunzio is a successful attorney and a partner at the Rosato & DiNunzio firm. Her schedule has gotten complicated, due to her wedding being a few weeks away. However, when an elderly man named Edward comes in for a free consultation, Mary’s world is turned upside down. Edward’s grandson, Patrick, is being sued by a teacher’s aide for assault. Sadly, it is this shy, dyslexic boy who bares the markings of abuse. As Mary becomes more involved in finding out the truth, she becomes the only chance Patrick has at surviving and leading a healthy life. Is Mary going to lose everything she has, in order to protect Patrick or will the evidence prove Mary wrong? Lisa Scottoline packs a powerful punch in this novel. Despite it being the fourth in a series, the plot works well as a stand-alone story. Readers, like Mary, will be drawn in right from the moment they meet Patrick and they will be kept guessing as they try to figure out the truth through all the multiple twists and intense secondary storylines. Damaged is a book that weaves its way into readers’ hearts. The author does an excellent job at showing the current struggles children with learning disorders face on a daily basis. Filled with a large family, human emotions, and one dramatic courtroom scene, readers of literature and mysteries will devour this book. Notes: The full review is available in the August 2016 Sasee Magazine. This portion of the review appeared on the Ariesgrl Book Reviews website.
Loved it! This is another winner in the Rosato & DiNuzio series (but is a stand alone novel). Mary is busy planning her wedding (set to occur in two weeks) and regretting not hiring a wedding planner, when an older gentleman, Edward, meets with her seeking legal representation for his grandson. The grandson, at ten years old, has more legal troubles than any one person should experience in their lifetime, let alone at such a young age. Patrick is dyslexic and has severe anxiety when has caused a whole host of problems for him, including being called disgusting names by both his peers and adults - although it might be overstating it to call someone an adult that would treat a child in such a way. If you've loved someone that's suffered from learning disabilities or anxiety, this book will tug at your heart strings. I found it difficult to read without reaching for a tissue. Despite the difficult subject, the author handled it with great skill, both crafting a compelling novel and providing accurate information on a tough subject. This is a must read and I highly recommend it. The author is on my must read authors' list.
Author Lisa Scottoline is a diverse writer who will have you crying, laughing, angry and ready to fight all within the first few pages of her book. Narrator Rebecca Lowman does a wonderful job vocalizing the varying emotions of the characters. Her cadence and timing are spot on. She gives each character their own unique voice. Her mannerisms add depth to this tantalizing tale. In DAMAGED, Scottoline blends heartbreaking events with humor for a well-balanced story. Her characters are realistic and likable. The protagonist is dedicated and determined with a heart of gold and a strong love of her family. With rich descriptions and vivid details, the author brings the setting to life. You feel the traditions and love of the DiNunzio family and their friends. You get a sense of what life is like in their neighborhood. Grabbing your attention at the beginning, Scottoline takes readers on a roller coaster ride of emotions and suspense as the story unfolds. Just as you catch your breath thinking things will settle down, the author throws you a curve and off you go again. Pulling on your heart strings, this pulse-pounding novel and its unique characters will stay with you long after it ends. FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this audio book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.
This was a good book and a good mystery. I felt enormous sympathy for her young client.
Can't wait for "e"!