Book Talk: Lisa Scottoline, ‘Dirty Blonde’

Lisa Scottoline is one of my all-time favorite writers, whose works I’ve enjoyed for more than two decades. She’s probably best known for her courtroom dramas, but “Dirty Blonde” (2006, 368 pages) is a bit of a departure and one of her most suspenseful novels. Certainly, there is a judge involved, lawyers, a courtroom, and a case being tried. But the spotlight is on Cate Fante, the new federal judge who is hearing a case between Richard Marz, a former prosecutor and the producer of the TV series, Attorneys@Law. Marz claims that the episodes are based on ideas and plot lines developed by him and Detective Russo.


Cate is a highly respected judge by day, but a “Looking-for-Mr. Goodbar” swinger at night. She picks up low-lifes and losers, some of whom are felons, at sleazy bars and goes with them to even sleazier hotel rooms. But, her life changes dramatically when one of the guys she decides to turn down in their hotel room is found dead, having fallen from the hotel’s balcony.


In court, on the Attorneys@Law case, Cate listens to arguments given by attorneys for both sides. Her heart is with the prosecutor and former cop, and it’s clear to her that the producer stole his ideas for the successful TV series. However, in point of law, there was no contract, not even a written agreement, between Marz and the producer, Art Simone. In an unwise move, Cate makes a verbal ruling from the bench in favor of Simone, and Marz is so inflamed that he physically attacks the producer.


Marshals whisk Cate away from the fracas, but the following day she learns that Simone has been murdered, and Marz has been found dead, the victim of a suicide with the same gun that was used to kill Simone. Naturally, the media swarm around the case, and details of Cate’s double life are leaked to the press. Consequently, Cate becomes a media target.


The other judges of the district court begin phoning her, expressing their sympathy and saying, “Of course, you’re going to sue.” But Cate surprises them. “I’m not going to sue. Everything they’ve written is true.” As the chief of the court turns against Cate, she also realizes that she’s now targeted for death by Marz’ creative partner, Detective Russo. On top of that, it’s become known that the late Simone’s company is planning a new TV series, Judges@Law, based on both the professional and dark double life of Judge Fante.


While trying to protect herself from being killed by Russo, Cate also figures out that Marz’s death was not a suicide. Although Russo is the only suspect, Cate begins having doubts. Because the police have declared the deaths of Simone and Marz a closed case, Cate, who has been suspended from her court duties, becomes the investigator for her suspicions.


I enjoyed this book, as I have the other Scottoline novels that I’ve read. It’s a fast-paced thriller, but I thought the end was a bit over-the-top. The denouement was too saccharine for my taste, but I suppose it was in keeping with Americans’ demand for happy endings.


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Jim Glynn may be contacted at j_glynn@att.net.

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