Lawyers Gone Bad
By Vincent Scarsella
239 pages, $12.95 paper
By Lee Coppola
NEWS BOOK REVIEWER
In drafting “Lawyers Gone Bad,” Vincent Scarsella drew on his experiences as head of the judicial entity that investigates lawyers in Western New York who go bad. For 18 years, Scarsella and his crew were responsible for finding out what lawyers did wrong and recommending punishment to the courts.
Enter Dean Alessi, the protagonist in “Lawyers Gone Bad.” He’s acting head of a similar lawyers’ disciplinary group in New York State. He has an alcoholic wife, an aging father, an assistant for whom he’s got the hots and a sidekick chief investigator wise in the ways of lawyerly transgressions.
Alessi doesn’t get appointed permanently, setting the stage for a political subplot that permeates the novel. And what mystery worth its weight in intrigue doesn’t have a murder? This one involves the first assistant district attorney of Erie County, the supposed paramour of her boss, the politically wired DA.
Will he prosecute his reputed lover? After all, she claims shooting her wealthy, much-older husband was an accident. Is this an ethical situation worthy of a disciplinary investigation?
These are the questions around which Scarsella builds his novel. And he thickens the plot by introducing an authoritative chief justice more interested in his judicial future than in dispensing justice. Add to that a politically connected lawyer appointed Alessi’s boss with a single goal – to get rid of Alessi.
It all comes together after a second murder, attempts on the lives of Alessi and his sidekick and an incriminating phone-video taken by a police detective strong-armed into keeping it a secret. A secret, that is, until …
“Lawyers” turns out to be a decent read. Scarsella uses a bit too much dialogue to tell his tale, but he spices it with saucy language when needed and street lingo where appropriate. He keeps the suspense at a high level until the answers unfold.
What goes around comes around seems to be his thesis – or does it? That’s because Scarsella, now a professor at Polk College in Florida, sees fit to bring justice to the criminal wrongdoings in “Lawyers” but gives a pass to the political miscreants.
In a larger sense, poor editing diminishes the work. Dropped words and improper punctuation dot the pages. In one instance, Scarsella names a special prosecutor Dave Keller on one page and Mark Keller four pages later. That’s a case of proof-reading gone bad.
Lee Coppola is a former print and TV journalist, a former federal prosecutor and the former dean of St. Bonaventure University’s journalism school.