Timing is everything. At the heart of Betrayed, the latest offering in the Rosato & Associates legal thriller series is the plight of the undocumented immigrant. With limited amnesty looming, Scottoline’s latest offering may benefit from growing awareness of the millions working in the shadows with few legal protections and the constant threat of deportation.
Judy Carrier, an associate in an all-female Philly law firm, is feeling sorry for herself because her best friend, Mary DiNunzio, just made partner and is planning a glamorous wedding. To top it off, Judy just learned that she’ll be spending the next few years on asbestos damage defense cases. That means that her bread and butter associate work will consist of persuading a judge or jury of the worthlessness of a worker’s life.
Judy may seem like a spoiled brat to many freshly minted lawyers for whom asbestos litigation is a huge step up from the document review temp work they’ve been doing. It’s a good thing, then, that Scottoline has some lessons in humility coming. Enter Iris, a South American undocumented immigrant who has managed to become Judy’s favorite aunt’s best friend (and illegal housekeeper).
When the woman ends up dead and Judy discovers that she stashed tens of thousands of dollars in the garden shed, Judy goes looking for answers. She finds a community preyed upon by unscrupulous employers, landlords and criminals while doing the back-breaking low wage work that puts cheap agricultural products on American dinner tables. Since Rosato & Associates is a Philadelphia firm, the agriculture in question is mushroom farming. As has been widely reported, Kenneth Square just outside Philadelphia is the mushroom capital of the country, with over half the mushrooms grown there. In manure. It’s a dirty job and undocumented immigrants are the lifeblood of the industry.
Betrayed is classic Scottoline – a fast-moving thriller full of twists and turns, populated by smart (if sometimes reckless) women. I could quibble with some of the details like Judy’s apparent ignorance of what an IOLTA account is, but overall this is an enjoyable read that sticks to its knitting.