Sunday, August 26, 2018

Review: Feared

Feared by Lisa Scottoline

My rating: 4.5 Stars

In the new thriller from New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Mary DiNunzio’s ruthless nemesis Nick Machiavelli is back...with a vengeance. 

When three men announce that they are suing the Rosato & DiNunzio law firm for reverse sex discrimination—claiming that they were not hired because they were men—Mary DiNunzio and Bennie Rosato are outraged. To make matters worse, their one male employee, John Foxman, intends to resign, claiming that there is some truth to this case.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer is Nick Machiavelli, who has already lost to Mary once and is now back with a vengeance —determined not to not only win, but destroy the firm. It soon becomes clear that Machiavelli will do anything in his power to achieve his end…even after the case turns deadly. The stakes have never been higher for Mary and her associates as they try to keep Machiavelli at bay, solve a murder, and save the law firm they love…or they could lose everything they’ve worked for. Told with Scottoline's trademark gift for twists, turns, heart, and humanity, this latest thriller asks the question: Is it better to be loved, or feared...

Feared, the sixth entry in the acclaimed Rosato & DiNunzio series, expertly explores what happens when we are tempted to give in to our own inner darkness. 


What is shocking about the events here is how vindictive a single soul can be towards others. The three lawyers suing the firm are represented by none other than Nick Machiavelli, who, after losing to Mary DiNunzio once before, declared vengeance on her. Well, his time has come, and boy, has he a doozy planned. And, not only does the team face this lawsuit, they stand a chance at losing a huge anti-trust suit they've been working on. Machiavelli just might win.

I really enjoyed this sixth book in the series. Facing a reverse discrimination case that could destroy the marvelous law firm of Rosato & DiNunzio is the initial story in this book. But when there is a murder connected with the firm, well, things take on a very different edge. A very pregnant Mary as well as her team work hard to keep the firm on its feet, whiling bringing justice to the murdered victim.

I have binge read this series, from Accused, all the way through to this title, Feared, with just a short break between books. However, these last four I read pretty much back-to-back. I literally could not help myself. As with all of the previous titles, I read this book straight through in just a couple of sittings. Lisa Scottoline has an exclusive style of writing these legal thrillers. She presents ongoing characters that mean something to me, interesting plots and fabulous twists and turns, with always stunning conclusions. Feared is no exception and I am almost sorry that I have caught up with the series! Unfortunately, this series is produced yearly, and I have a long wait to go for another installment. However I have amassed a small library of some of her other titles to keep me busy.

Many thanks to St. Martins Press and to NetGalley for this ARC to review; this is my honest opinion.


“Surprise!” everyone shouted, as Mary DiNunzio opened the door to the conference room. The office was throwing her a baby shower, and she almost burst into tears of joy. Pregnancy had boosted her emotions past normal Italian-American levels, and for the past seven months, she’d been a walking bowl of estrogen.

“Aww, you guys!” Mary wiped her eyes while they all rushed over. “Were you surprised?” Judy Carrier, her best friend, gave her a big hug.

“Or did you guess?” Anne Murphy, the firm’s gorgeous fashionista, enveloped Mary in a perfumed cloud.

“DiNunzio, you couldn’t have been surprised, could you?” called out Bennie Rosato, Mary’s partner and former boss. Bennie stood at a distance because group hugs were against her religion, folding her arms in her characteristic khaki suit, unruly blonde topknot, and vaguely ironic smile. “Where did you think we all were?”

“I don’t know!” Mary sniffled happily. “I figured I was the first one in this morning.”

“You? Ha!” Lou Jacobs laughed, giving her a hug. Bald and nearing seventy years old, Lou was a former cop who worked as their investigator. He was trim, fit, and perennially tan from weekends fishing in Margate. His eyes were a flinty gray-blue, with a nose like the bill of a seagull.

“Congrats, Mary!” Marshall Trow, their receptionist, smiled from ear-to-ear.

“Congratulations, Mary!” John Foxman gave her a stiff hug, and Mary hugged him back warmly. She had thought he was too preppie when they first met, but he’d proved his mettle on one of her most important cases.

“You guys went to so much trouble!” Mary took in the scene. Pink and blue streamers hung from the ceiling, obscuring Bennie’s beloved Eakins rowing prints and the view of the Philadelphia skyline. Stacks of trial exhibits had been pushed aside to make room for pink- and blue-frosted cupcakes, a pile of gaily wrapped gifts, and paper plates and cups.

“It was no trouble.” Judy waved her off with a grin.

“We wanted to!” added Anne.

Bennie snorted. “DiNunzio, I agree with you, but they said we had to.” She gestured Mary into a seat at the head of the table, usually hers. “Now sit down and have a cupcake, so we can get back to work.”

“Got it.” Mary waddled to the seat. “Sit down, everyone, please. I can’t take the guilt if you’re standing.”

“Bennie, give us a toast.” Judy sat down, reaching for a pink cupcake and taking a typically big bite.

“Okay.” Bennie raised her I CAN SMELL FEAR mug. “Everybody, join me, get a drink.”

Mary felt her eyes well up again. She loved them, and as thrilled as she was about the baby, she would miss them during her maternity leave. And seeing Bennie standing proudly, her mug raised, made Mary flash on the arc of their long relationship. Mary had joined the law firm as an insecure associate and had grown into a somewhat-less-insecure named partner, which was progress.

“To Mary DiNunzio.” Bennie’s expression softened. “I speak for everyone at Rosato & DiNunzio when I say that we wish you, Anthony, and your new baby all the happiness in the world—but we can’t wait until you come back to work.”

“Hear, hear!” Lou called out, and everybody cheered, raising their cups. “To Mary!” “To the baby!” “To the new lawyer!”

“Thank you!” Mary smiled, taking a sip of seltzer, which would probably make her gassy. These days she could barely walk for having to hold her sphincter closed. At home, she let it rip, and her husband, Anthony, wasn’t allowed to complain. Her breasts had grown to gargantuan proportions, and he had to take the bad with the good.

Suddenly there was a noise outside the conference room, and a man in a sportcoat arrived at the threshold. “Excuse me,” he said, “there was nobody at the reception desk. I have hand-deliveries for Bennie Rosato, Mary DiNunzio, and Judy Carrier.”

“That’s me,” Bennie said, rising and walking around the table.

“I’m Judy.” Judy stood up and went over.

“I’m Mary, but hang on.” Mary got up, slowly.

“Okay, here we go.” The man handed Mary, Judy, and Bennie each a thick manila envelope. “I’m with AMG Process Servers. You’ve been served.”

Bennie blinked. “You mean a client of ours has been served.”

“No. You’ve been served. Bye.” The man left, with a surprised Marshall escorting him out.

“What?” Mary asked, aghast. She’d never been sued in her life. She’d never even colored outside of the lines.

“Let me see.” Bennie had torn open the envelope and was already reading the papers with a deepening frown. “It’s a copy of a Complaint that was just filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. We’re being sued as a firm and individually, as partners.”

“Who could be suing you guys?” Anne rose quickly, crossing to read the papers.

Lou snorted, getting up. “Who would be crazy enough?”

“And for what?” John asked, indignant, crossing the room to read over Bennie’s shoulder.

Bennie read through the papers. “We’re being sued for reverse sex discrimination.”

Mary read over Bennie’s shoulder, aghast. “The plaintiffs are three male lawyers who allege they applied for jobs and weren’t hired because they’re men.”

“Are you serious?” Judy recoiled. “We’re being sued?”

Lou asked, “What’s the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission?”

Bennie kept reading the Complaint. “It’s an agency that enforces state law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender and for other reasons. The federal analogue is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.”

Judy looked over at Lou. “The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act covers smaller employers like us. This is the beginning of a lawsuit, because you have to file a complaint with the Commission before you can go to court.”

“Here, I’ll read the allegations.” Bennie cleared her throat. “The law firm of Rosato & DiNunzio was unlawfully founded as a ‘women-only’ law firm. On many occasions, its principals Bennie Rosato, Mary DiNunzio, and Judy Carrier have even admitted as much, stating in interviews that their law firm is ‘comprised of all women’ and is ‘all-female.’”

Mary felt a wave of nausea, only partly pregnancy-related. “We said that because reporters would ask us if we were all-female. That doesn’t mean it’s a job requirement.”

“Who are these plaintiffs?” Judy’s fair skin flushed with emotion, turning almost as pink as her hair. “When did we fail to hire them? Besides, we’re not an all-female law firm anymore. We have John now. Doesn’t he count?”

“Yeah, right.” Anne gestured to John. “You hired him yourself, right, Judy?”

“Yes, totally.” Judy nodded, emphatic. “Bennie, that disproves their case right there, doesn’t it?”

“No, it doesn’t.” Bennie looked over, frowning. “Point of law, the fact that a company hired a man doesn’t prove that it didn’t discriminate against another male plaintiff. Secondly, the fact that we don’t interview more widely doesn’t cut in our favor. Failing to interview widely tends to perpetuate discriminatory employment practices. In an all-male firm, it would perpetuate an old-boy network.”

“Like an old-girl network?” Mary felt defensive. “Gimme a break. We don’t discriminate against men. This suit doesn’t have any merit. These guys have a lot of nerve.”

“Because they’re men,” Judy shot back, but nobody laughed. “Okay, not allowed to joke around anymore. Bennie, who are the plaintiffs?”

“Their names are Michael Battle, Graham Madden, and Stephen McManus, corporate litigators. They allege they were ‘more than qualified’ to be associates. They applied and were rejected. It says we interviewed one, McManus.” Bennie looked up, puzzled. “Who interviewed McManus?”

“I did,” John answered. “I thought we needed an associate to help on London Technologies. I asked Anne if I could hire somebody. Remember, Anne?”

“Yes.” Anne nodded, frowning. “You were supposed to interview the candidates, make a recommendation to me, and I’d run it up to Bennie.”

“Okay, so I put an ad online and in the Intelligencer, went through the resumes, and interviewed a bunch of candidates, including one of these three, the plaintiffs.” John looked nonplussed, turning to Bennie. “I liked Steve McManus and recommended to Anne that we hire him. She said no and told me to go back to the drawing board. Instead I hired a contract lawyer because I didn’t have time to start the whole process over again.”

Bennie faced Anne. “Why didn’t you want to hire McManus? Did you interview him?”

“No.” Anne thought for a minute, a worried crease marking her perfect features. “I looked at the resume and didn’t like it. He didn’t seem to have any personality. I didn’t think he would be a good fit.”

Bennie arched an eyebrow. “What do you mean by ‘good fit’?”

“He seemed really boring, like, too quiet. None of us is, and that’s why this is a fun place to work. He didn’t strike me as the kind of person we need, completely regardless of his gender.” Anne straightened. “I can totally defend my decision. Under the law, we can decide not to hire someone for any reason, or even no reason, as long as it’s not discriminatory.”

“Correct.” Bennie returned her attention to the Complaint. “Foxman, you’re mentioned here, too.”

“I am?” John swallowed hard, and Mary noticed he suddenly seemed nervous, which was unusual because not much ruffled his patrician cool. He was good-looking, with intelligent blue eyes behind rimless glasses, a small nose, and precisely layered reddish hair. Tall and perennially well-dressed, he always looked to Mary as if he’d been born in a rep tie. But she could see his mouth go suddenly dry.

Bennie cleared her throat again. “Let me read aloud. ‘Plaintiff Stephen McManus was interviewed by associate John Foxman in his office at Rosato & DiNunzio. During the interview, Foxman told Plaintiff McManus that he himself felt ‘out of place at Rosato & DiNunzio because he was a male.’” Bennie looked up slowly, appalled. “Did you say that, Foxman?”

Mary sensed the answer. John tended to make his opinions known, and she remembered that on the last case they had worked together, he had spoken imprudently to the media. In other circumstances she would have termed it mansplaining, but not today.

“Whoa.” Judy grimaced at John. “Did you really say that?”

“John, do you really think that?” Anne’s lovely green eyes focused on him, awaiting his answer, as was Lou.

“Um.” John swallowed visibly, his Adam’s apple getting stuck on his cutaway collar. “I said that.”

Mary moaned inwardly, and everyone fell silent. A pink streamer fluttered from the ceiling to the carpet.

“Foxman.” Bennie controlled her tone. “You said that to an interviewee? Explain.”

John went ashen-faced. “I’m the only male lawyer. If we’re being honest, I do feel that way, sometimes.”

“Like when?” Judy and Anne interrupted, in outraged unison.

John gestured vaguely at the streamers. “For starters, at a baby shower.”

Judy threw up her hands. “John, I feel out of place at a baby shower.”

“But I do feel out of place here, at times.”

“John, really?” Judy blurted out. “You’re not out of place here. You’re one of us, whether you’re a man or woman. You know that.”

“Bummer.” Anne was shaking her head, her glossy red hair shining. “You never said anything like that to me.”

Mary could see that John felt terrible, but now they were on the legal hook. Litigation was a nightmare, especially when you were on the receiving end, and it was the last thing she needed in a difficult pregnancy. She tried not to throw up.

Bennie raised a hand. “Foxman, I asked you to explain the circumstances in which you made this statement to an interviewee.”

John stiffened. “Well, during the interview, I guess McManus and I got to talking. He was a nice guy. I felt we had a rapport. That’s why I wanted to hire him. I might’ve admitted that I felt out of place here, sometimes. As a guy.”

Bennie squared her shoulders. “Foxman, I’m disappointed. If you’d brought it to me, we could have addressed it. Instead you chose to make your views known to an outsider, who’s using it against us in a baseless lawsuit.”

John swallowed, mortified. “It was a mistake.”

“No, it was treason.”

John flinched. “Bennie, I’m sorry. Do you want me to resign? I don’t want to, but I will if you want me to.”

“And add fuel to the plaintiffs’ fire? No.” Bennie glared at him, creating the most awkward moment in legal history. “Where do you think those resumes would be? Or a copy of the ad that we ran? Do you have them?”

“Yes, somewhere.”

“Find their resumes and any other communications you had with them—email, text, phone calls, whatever. Prepare a chronology so we understand exactly what happened. We have to know what they know.” Bennie glanced at Anne. “Murphy, I’m tasking you with preventing this from happening again. We have to institute a formalized way of dealing with interviewees from now on. We can’t do it by the seat of our pants anymore. Please coordinate with Marshall, set up a system, and let us know your recommendation. We need to implement it immediately.”

“Will do,” Anne said quickly.

Judy turned to Bennie. “Who represents the plaintiffs?”

“Hold on, let me see.” Bennie flipped through the Complaint, then looked up. “Guess who, DiNunzio.”

“Tell me.” Mary hated guessing games from before she was on progesterone, which left her feeling dumber than usual.

“It’s your mortal enemy.”

“I don’t have any enemies.”

Judy smiled. “Truth. She’s universally beloved.”

Bennie met Mary’s troubled gaze. “You beat him last time, and he’s back with a vengeance. Nick Machiavelli.”

“Oh no.” Mary’s heart sank. Unfortunately, her gorge rose. The real Niccolò Machiavelli had thought it was better to be feared than loved, and his alleged descendant, South Philly lawyer Nick Machiavelli, followed suit. He was feared, not loved, while Mary was loved, not feared. She knew Machiavelli would come back for an ultimate lawyer battle, like a fight between good and evil, with billable hours.

Bennie closed the Complaint. “Folks, the party’s over. Sorry, Mary. Open your presents later. We have to talk about this lawsuit, and everybody has to clear the room except for the three partners.”

“I need a wastebasket,” Mary said, looking around.


Lisa Scottoline is The New York Times bestselling author and Edgar award-winning author of 31 novels, including her latest work, FEARED. She also writes a weekly column with her daughter Francesca Serritella for the Philadelphia Inquirer titled “Chick Wit” which is a witty and fun take on life from a woman’s perspective. These stories, along with many other never-before-published stories, have been collected in a New York Times bestselling series of humorous memoirs including their most recent, I See Life Through RosĂ©-Colored Glasses, and earlier books, I Need A Lifeguard Everywhere But The Pool; I’ve Got Sand in All the Wrong Places, Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat?; Have a Nice Guilt Trip; Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim; Best Friends, Occasional Enemies; My Nest Isn’t Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space; and Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog, which has been optioned for TV. Lisa reviews popular fiction and non-fiction, and her reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Lisa has served as President of Mystery Writers of America and has taught a course she developed, “Justice and Fiction” at The University of Pennsylvania Law School, her alma mater. Lisa is a regular and much sought after speaker at library and corporate events. Lisa has over 30 million copies of her books in print and is published in over 35 countries. She lives in the Philadelphia area with an array of disobedient pets, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Read Lisa’s official biography.

Lisa’s books have solidly landed on all the major bestseller lists including The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, and LOOK AGAIN was named “One of the Best Novels of the Year” by The Washington Post, and one of the best books in the world as part of World Book Night 2013. Lisa’s novels are known for their emotionality and their warm and down-to-earth characters, which resonate with readers and reviewers long after they have finished the books. When writing about Lisa’s Rosato & Associates series, Janet Maslin of The New York Times applauds Lisa’s books as “punchy, wisecracking thrillers” whose “characters are earthy, fun and self-deprecating” and distinguishes her as having “one of the best-branded franchise styles in current crime writing.”

Lisa’s contributions through her writing has been recognized by organizations throughout the country. She is the recipient of the Edgar Award, the Mystery Writer’s of America most prestigious honor, the Fun, Fearless, Fiction Award by Cosmopolitan Magazine, and named a PW Innovator by Publisher’s Weekly. Lisa was honored with AudioFile’s Earphones Award and named Voice of the Year for her recording of her non-fiction book, Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog. Each follow up collection, including the most recent, Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat?, has garnered both Lisa and her daughter, Francesca, Earphones Awards as well. In addition, she has been honored with a Distinguished Author Award from Scranton University, and a “Paving the Way” award from the University of Pennsylvania, Women in Business.

Lisa’s accomplishments all pale in comparison to what she considers her greatest achievement, raising, as a single mom, her beautiful (a completely unbiased opinion) daughter, an honors graduate of Harvard, New York Times bestselling author, and columnist, who is currently working on her first novel.

Lisa believes in writing what you know, and she puts so much of herself into her books. What you may or may not learn about Lisa from her books is that she is an incredibly generous person, an engaging and entertaining speaker, a die-hard Eagles fan, a good cook, and a vegetarian. She loves the color pink, has an incredible design sense, has recently taken up gardening and golf, and her musical taste includes everything from U2 to Sinatra to 50 Cent, she is proud to be an American, and nothing makes her happier than spending time with her daughter.

Lisa is also a regular softie when it comes to her furry family. Nothing can turn Lisa from a professional, career-minded author, to a mushy, sweet-talking, ball-throwing woman like her beloved dogs. Although she has owned and loves various dog breeds, including her amazing goldens, she has gone crazy for her collection of King Charles Spaniels. Lisa first fell in love with the breed when Francesca added her Blehneim Cavalier, Pip, to the mix. This prompted Lisa to get her own, and she started with the adorable, if not anatomically incorrect (Lisa wrote a “Chick Wit” column about this), Little Tony, her first male dog. Little Tony is a black and tan Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. But, Lisa couldn’t stop at just one, and soon added her little Peach, a Blehneim King Charles Cavalier.

Find Lisa: Web / Twitter ; Goodreads