Lisa Scottoline’s Rosato & Associates novels are as much about the characters as they are about the mystery. In ACCUSED, attorney Mary DiNunzio stars in a cast of delightful ladies, their friends and family, and, of course, a man accused --- and convicted --- of murder. While Mary is more of a quiet and almost shy personality, her near-deaf father is constantly shouting, but only because he needs a hearing aid. Her mother, the epitome of an Italian matriarch, seems to believe the ills of the world can be cured with food and love.
Well, she may be right about that. Food coupled with love always seems to work for the DiNunzios. Along with friendship. Constant companions of the charming DiNunzios are the Tonys, their closest family friends: Pigeon Tony, Tony-From-Down-the-Block, and Tony Two Feet. The Tonys’ shenanigans tend to get them into all sorts of good-natured trouble, but things wouldn’t be the same without them.
The story opens as Mary has just been elevated to partner status with Bennie Rosato, head of the Philadelphia firm. Mary can barely believe it and has trouble stepping up her attitude to a more boss-like one. Doubting herself most of the time and afraid of hurting anyone’s feelings, she carries guilt around like most women carry a handbag. Nonetheless, she is elated, and sharing her good fortune with her cohorts, mom, pop and the Tonys.
"In ACCUSED, attorney Mary DiNunzio stars in a cast of delightful ladies, their friends and family, and, of course, a man accused --- and convicted --- of murder."
Now, just as the small, all-female firm is celebrating Mary’s promotion, a client arrives, announcing her desire to hire them. The name of a famous Philadelphia family snaps them to attention, and the partying is immediately cut short. The Gardners carry a lot of weight around Philly, so getting a toe-hold in their business presents an exciting prospect.
Unfortunately, the Gardner wanting to hire them is 13-year-old Allegra. Worse yet, she says her parents know she’s trying to hire a lawyer, that they won’t try to stand in her way, but they won’t help her either. You see, she wants to reopen her sister’s murder case, claiming the man convicted of killing Fiona is innocent.
John and Jane Gardner may have been aware of Allegra’s intentions, but it turns out they do try to stand in her way. They have no intention of allowing a new investigation to go forward. Reopening the case would reopen old wounds, wounds that have barely healed, and they simply find the idea too painful. For them, Allegra needs to let it go and move on, like they have. Little do they realize that none of them has truly moved on.
The case itself presents many problems, way beyond the most obvious one of proving an innocent man has been falsely imprisoned. The first problem is that he pled guilty. How do you argue with that? Another comes along in the form of Mary’s best friend and associate, Judy. This case drives a wedge between them that, hopefully, will not last. Mary loves to bounce ideas off Judy and needs her now more than ever. Mary’s boyfriend, Anthony, has just asked her to marry him, and Mary is feeling a bit overwhelmed. She loves Anthony, but is this what she really wants? She will either have to get a backbone or her life could very well fall apart. For the present, though, her mind needs to be on her client.
Who killed Fiona is a great question, and the journey to find the answer is an even greater journey. Mary DiNunzio proves herself up to the task, but she doesn’t come out unscathed. Thankfully, she has an indispensable circle of friends and the best family one could hope for. And any reader with a heart will fall in love with sweet young Allegra.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on November 1, 2013