Lisa Scottoline, Author . HarperCollins $25.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-074288-1

Scottoline's 12th novel was inspired by a real-life jury trial for crack-cocaine trafficking of members of one of the most violent gangs in Philadelphia history (in her acknowledgments, the former trial lawyer admits she watches cases like these "for fun"). Such inspiration lends a tough, uncompromising realism to this stand-alone legal thriller. Scottoline (Killer Smile ; Dead Ringer ; etc.) sets the book in Philly, of course, and her lead this time is assistant U.S. Attorney Vicki Alegretti, whose petite frame belies her gutsy, unbridled determination on the job. While conducting a routine interview with a confidential informant on a straightforward matter, things go awry, and Vicki's partner—along with the informant—is shot. Resolved to find the killer, Vicki takes on the case (unbeknownst to her boss), and that's when the twists begin. In short chapters with cliffhanger endings, Scottoline spins a tale that finds Vicki joining forces with Reheema, a gorgeous black woman from the drug-ridden West Philly neighborhood of Devil's Corner. Reheema wants to find the person responsible for murdering her crack-addicted mother, and as she and Vicki play detective, they realize the murders may be connected and that they're getting increasingly closer to bringing down a sizable drug ring. Scottoline's ability to mix humor with serious subject matter, combined with her intense research of inner city drug trafficking and a side plot involving Vicki's love life, make for compelling entertainment. Agent, Molly Friedrich. (June)

Reviewed on: 03/28/2005
Release date: 06/01/2005
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Ebook - 480 pages - 978-0-06-116039-4
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