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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Lisa Scottoline’s Dirty Blonde

Lisa Scottoline is a Philadelphia writer, so I wanted to give her novel, Dirty Blonde, a shot. I’ve been forcibly read to from her column in the Philadelphia Inquirer from a fan of her’s on numerous occasions, and thought the novel that had been on the book shelf in the hall was a safe bet.

Cate Fante has just been appointed to the district court in Philadelphia, and her high-profile case involving the creator of the latest legal thriller to reach the small screen has her in the news. When she’s forced to allow a judgment in favor of the producer over the local writer claiming to have originated the concept for the show, things get even crazier after the producer is killed – seemingly by the complainant, who has killed himself. Her life only gets more complicated when producers of the show threaten to expose her penchant for one-night stands with guys she picks up from dive bars in the city.

Some form of empathy for the protagonist is generally a part of the reading experience involved with pop-culture novels. While Scottoline deserves credit for challenging the typical formula by giving her main character a major character flaw, it made it difficult for me to “root” for Fante. I’ll admit that may be nothing more than a chauvinistic bias on my part, and there’s little doubt the author had some fun turning the womanizer type of character around.

But I really think there was more to it. Most of the trouble Fante faced was brought on by Fante. She had everything going her way, as protagonists often do in the beginning of these stories, and continued a behavior that she knew threatened all of it. Obviously, there was the hint of a sex addiction, but it wasn’t quite sold in that vein. It came off as just her stupidity that caught up to her, especially when the idea of treatment never comes into play even in what ends up being a typical pop novel finish.

I’m always impressed when a novel, or any “entertainment vehicle,” deals with a disability in a realistic manner. Fante’s best friend has a son who has autism. A good amount of time is spent dealing with the challenges the single mother and the little boy face in dealing with the disability. It simply isn’t done enough by other writers. Fante’s relationship with the family even becomes a part of her struggle.

The writing is perfectly fine, allowing for easy enough reading. I struggled to get going with the novel, but that happens so often that I have to think it’s just me as opposed to anything with the book. Once I got going, the reading was smooth, and, as a side note for others from the area, it was fun to read a novel that took place in Philadelphia.

I wouldn’t recommend Dirty Blonde, but I wouldn’t discourage anyone considering picking up the novel either.

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