Book Review: Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline, © 2015, Smart Blonde, LLC, St. Martin’s Press, NY, NY. Edition reviewed: Kindle $8.99
“I’m a sociopath.”
No, not me. That’s how Lisa Scottoline opens her new novel, Every Fifteen Minutes. I chose to review Ms. Scottoline’s latest novel because she is a lawyer who lives in the Philadelphia area. Oh, and also because she is a best-selling novelist who writes legal thrillers.
This book is an excellent choice for legal pleasure reading. It touches on criminal law (dear to my heart), family law, law concerning psychiatrists and their patients, human resources law, FDA law (and how hospitals decide on new drugs), and doctor-patient confidentiality in Pennsylvania.
This book is not only set in Pennsylvania, it is set in the Philadelphia metropolitan area with scenes in Chester County, Delaware County and an explosive scene at King of Prussia Mall in our own Montgomery County.
The first chapter, written by an unnamed sociopath, grabs the reader’s attention immediately. We learn that this person enjoys being a sociopath. He or she gives us statistics, including that one out of 24 people (a little more than 4% for the mathematically challenged) are sociopaths. There are several other chapters written by the sociopath as the reader attempts to figure out which of the myriad, multi-dimensional characters created by Ms. Scottoline is the sociopath.
The sociopath tries to school us on the first page:
“People think evil exists in the form of terrorists, murderers, and ruthless dictators, but not in ‘normal’ people like me. They don’t realize that evil lives on their street. Works in the cubicle next to them. Chats with them in the checkout line at CVS. Reads a paperback on the train next to them. Runs on a treadmill at their gym. Or marries their daughter. We’re here, and we prey on you. We target you. We groom you.”
My favorite character in this book is not the main character, but a criminal defense attorney (what a surprise!). Those of us who practice or have practiced criminal defense will recognize the following type of conversation, conducted with humor. I have eliminated the character’s name talking to the lawyer as well as the victim’s name as I think that is somewhat of a spoiler. I also changed pronouns to plural to hide the sex. Paul is the lawyer. (page 242)
“[suspect] blinked. ‘ I do have questions, but don’t you want to ask me whether I murdered [victim]?’
‘Why would I do that?’ Paul looked at [them] like [they] was crazy . . ..
‘It’s a logical question.’
‘Not for me, I’m a criminal lawyer.’
[suspect] hoped he was kidding. ‘Well, I didn’t do it. I had nothing to do with [their] murder.’
‘Thank God. I only represent innocent clients.’
‘Are you serious?’
. . ..
‘Okay, I never ask my clients if they did it. Why? It’s legally insignificant. I’m not a dirtbag. I’m a purist. I represent the Constitution, it’s the purest law we have, not bought and paid for, like now. Our forefathers were geniuses, not thieves. Lofty enough for you? The Constitution guarantees your rights, but cops and prosecutors cross that line all the time. My job is to push ‘em back, shove ‘em back, wa-a-a-ay back!”
On page 243, Paul gives a great explanation to someone without experience in the criminal justice system about what they are about to encounter as a defendant: “The Commonwealth has all the aces, and you don’t even know you’re playing cards.”
On page 324, Paul revisits his lofty explanation of criminal defense and the Constitution.
“‘Like I told you in the beginning, I represent the Constitution, and the procedure in the Constitution is there to protect everybody’s rights to its substance, that is, our individual freedoms -- the right to live free, the right to pursue happiness, the right to free speech, the right to religion, and the right to be free of oppressive government. Follow?’
‘For example, we don’t want government to search our homes whenever they want, so we place restrictions on the procedure -- the search warrant has to be specific, limited, has to itemize what they want, has to be served at a certain time, has to meet a bunch of requirements. They’re all so-called technicalities, but they protect the right to live your life, in your home, the way you want. That’s a freedom that our forefathers protected for us. That’s the beauty of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Capisce?’
I spotted some errors. The only legal error I found was on page 298. The lawyer and his client are being interviewed by the police. During the conversation, the defense attorney says to the police, “Without waiving my attorney-client privilege . . ..” As we all know, the privilege belongs to the client, not the attorney.
All in all, I highly recommend this book. There are twists and turns. Some you will be able to see coming but many will be a surprise.