Sunday, September 15, 2013

Think Twice

I was in Tower Books on South Street with my ex-boyfriend Steve when I first saw Everywhere That Mary Went.  Or rather, Steve saw it and said I should buy it - it was about a Mary in Philadelphia.  The following Saturday, I decided to read a chapter or two before going to sleep, and the next thing I knew it was 4 am and I'd finished the book.  I loved Scotoline's first 8 or 9 books, tightly written mysteries that really capture my home town.  When I read her books, I feel like I know her characters because I do - or at least I've stood behind them in line at the Wawa.  A few years ago, though, she lost my interest.  Timeline issues with her Rosato & Associates series-that's-not-quite-a-series nagged at me, and her stand alone novels just didn't grab me.  I stopped looking for her newest books, and mainly bought this one because I saw it at the Center City Borders' closing sale.

I wasn't particularly optimistic about Think Twice which includes two tropes (the evil twin and the recurring villain) of which I'm not particularly fond.  Bennie Rosato's twin Alice Connelly is a cartoon, a manipulative cypher who knows exactly what her twin thinks without ever letting us into her mind or motivation.  She's allegedly reformed when she drugs Bennie and buries her alive before assuming her identity.  All she has to do is pretend to be Bennie for a few days, then she'll fly to the Cayman Islands with Bennie's money.  Easy, right?  Well, it might have been if the field where she'd buried Bennie hadn't been mowed a few hours later, uncovering enough of the coffin for Bennie to break free.  Or if Bennie's ex-boyfriend Grady hadn't shown up on her doorstep, hoping for a reconciliation.  So instead of simply convincing Bennie's associates, Mary DiNunzio and Judy Carrier, that she's Bennie, Alice has to convince her twin's former lover that she's Bennie - while Bennie (whom everyone thinks is Alice) tries to convince the police that she's the victim of identity theft.  This illustrates why I generally don't believe in conspiracy theories - there are too many things that can go wrong.

Anyway, Scotoline uses two plot devices I don't like involving a character I particularly dislike, but instead of being headed for probation, I'm actually eager to read the Scottoline books I've missed.  The Alice as Bennie/Bennie Hunts Alice story works until the slightly forced ending, but I'm OK with that.  Scotoline allows Grady, Mary, and Judy to doubt Alice just enough, and Alice gives reasonably plausible explanations.  More importantly Think Twice brought back Judy and Mary, along with the senior DiNunzios (and a distant relative whose appearance I'd normally consider padding, but whose few scenes were entertaining and well-integrated into the story).

Mary and Judy don't just remind me of people I've met - I could be either one of them, asking for advice or troubleshooting a plan with someone I've known forever and who can finish my sentences.  Their conversations (about work, about their love lives, about Mary's real estate purchases) sound like the conversations I've had, and Judy's assimilation into Mary's family reminds me of my mom reminding my friends that they "know where the glasses are" and have earned the right to open the fridge without asking.  Event their arguments are real, with the guilty party feeling, well, guilty, and regretting words as they hang in the air.  I don't see enough real, believable women in entertainment.  Bridesmaids stood out not because it was the first time women were allowed a gross-out scene, but because it showed women as actual friends, with real conflicts and regrets.  Mary's and Judy's relationship is like Annie's and Lillian's at the start of the movie, shadowing an outdoor exercise class and joking over breakfast.  It's how women really act - and how we're so rarely allowed to act in the media.  I'd like to think that an adaptation of any of the Rosato & Associates books would change that, but unfortunately, it's more likely that Hollywood would change the characters.

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