Timely plot for Di­n­un­zio thriller

The Denver Post - - FEATURES - By Carol Mem­mott

THRILLER

It seems un­likely, but Lisa Scot­to­line has writ­ten a grip­ping thriller about, es­sen­tially, health in­sur­ance.

Her lat­est novel, “Ex­posed,” cen­ters on Si­mon Pen­siera, a young wid­ower fired from his job at a cu­bi­cle man­u­fac­turer iron­i­cally named Openspaces. Si­mon’s boss says he was let go be­cause of his low pro­duc­tiv­ity; Si­mon be­lieves it’s be­cause the com­pany is tired of shelling out hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums for Si­mon’s 4-year-old daugh­ter, Rachel, who has leukemia and needs a bone mar­row trans­plant es­ti­mated to cost a mil­lion dol­lars.

Now without health in­sur­ance (or Oba­macare), Si­mon turns to the one per­son he be­lieves can help him — his long­time friend Mary Di­n­un­zio, the Phila- del­phia at­tor­ney whose ex­ploits with her part­ner, Ben­nie Rosato, have made Scot­to­line a grand cham­pion of the le­gal thriller genre. Scot­to­line in­tro­duced us to Rosato and Di­n­un­zio in 1993’s “Ev­ery­where That Mary Went.” Since then, the in­domitable at­tor­neys have starred in more than a dozen nov­els.

This time it seems like a cut-and-dried case for Mary to win. But there’s one in­sur­mount­able ob­sta­cle — Ben­nie. It turns out that she al­ready han­dles the le­gal work for Openspace’s par­ent com­pany, cre­at­ing a con­flict and jeop­ar­diz­ing Mary’s pro­fes­sional and per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with her friend and col­league. This trou­ble be­tween the two women would be more than enough to carry the novel — like so many Scot­to­line nov­els, the re­la­tion­ships among Mary’s fam­ily and her friends, many from the Philadel­phia work­ing-class neigh­bor­hood where she grew up, are rich and emo­tion­ally en­gag­ing.

But here the Ben­nie ver­sus Mary stand­off merely sets the stage for an even big­ger story. When Si­mon’s for­mer boss turns up dead, the be­lea­guered Si­mon is the prime sus­pect. Is it pos­si­ble that the mur­der and Si­mon’s fir­ing have noth­ing to do with in­sur­ance pay­ments? Mary and Ben­nie have been fight­ing for jus­tice for a quar­ter of a cen­tury, but un­like the rest of us, they haven’t aged in real time. They still do their sleuthing the old-fash­ioned way, bang­ing on doors and vis­it­ing crime scenes, even if in re­cent years they’ve been chas­ing clues via the in­ter­net.

Their meth­ods may have changed some­what, but their pure-hearted mo­tives haven’t. Af­ter one par­tic­u­larly heinous dis­cov­ery, Scot­to­line writes: “Mary hated can­cer, but work­ing on Si­mon’s case had brought her to the epiphany that can­cer came in many forms — and even in al­legedly healthy peo­ple. Mur­der­ers had a form of can­cer, too. It was hate be­neath the sur­face, wait­ing for its chance to strike and kill. And it had to be stopped.”

If you’re one of Scot­to­line’s le­gions of fans, you know what I’m talk­ing about when I say she em­ploys a “kitchen sink” ap­proach to her nov­els’ grand fi­nales. I can see her sit­ting at her desk throw­ing ev­ery imag­in­able twist-and-turn into this novel’s big-bang con­clu­sion. “Ex­posed” wraps up with a de­mo­li­tion-derby doozy of an end­ing that will leave you shaken.

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