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Skinny-Dipping    by Claire Matturro order for
by Claire Matturro
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

I often open a book by an author new to me with conflicting feelings. Part of me wonders if I should be sticking to one of my tried-and-true favorites, but another part is excited to try something new and hopeful that I will want to add the author to my list of favorites. That was how I felt when I cracked open Skinny-Dipping by debut author Claire Matturo.

Lily is a thirty-four year old single trial attorney in Sarasota, Florida. She's a junior partner at a small law firm specializing in medical malpractice defense. Lily is at least as tough and as good a trial lawyer as her male counterparts. Six feet tall, with long, glossy black hair and a body that is toned from regular workouts, Lily is eye-catching although she does not consider herself beautiful. Her striking looks are coupled with a sassy personality and a tendency for melodrama. Lily is a strong, independent woman who knows where she is going, what she wants, and how she is going to get it.

Unlike many colleagues, Lily refuses to wear 'golden handcuffs' and has set out a strict financial plan for herself that will enable her to retire to the Georgia countryside in a handful of years. Lily does not care that she drives a 1987 Honda, while most lawyers own a Lexus or BMW. She's not going to sacrifice her financial freedom to impress a client or fellow attorney. But Lily will spend extra money on filtered water and organic produce. She's an obsessive-compulsive, germ-phobic vegetarian, who maintains a shining, clutter-free home and is extremely particular about food choices. While her anal-retentive nature serves her well at work, Lily has to curb her urge to try and 'make everything perfect' in her personal life.

Returning to her office at the law firm one evening, Lily is assaulted. She's able to shake off her assailant, who runs away before Lily can identify who attacked her. It seems like a mugging, although she still has her purse and briefcase. The police are called and an incident report filled out. Lily shrugs off the experience and dives back into work. The next day, a new client, a doctor being sued for medical malpractice, dies under strange circumstances (although luckily, Lily was able to wrangle a prescription out of him for painkillers the day before he died and she quickly fills it before news of his death spreads).

It turns out the doctor was poisoned and while Lily tries to recover from her recent attack and her client's murder, her ex-boyfriend moves in. Nealy and Lily are not 'back together,' but Nealy is going through yet another divorce and needs a place to stay. Nealy's wives always take all his money and he can never seem to get ahead, despite his tendency to win astronomical jury awards for his clients. Although Nealy has trouble keeping a wife, he is handsome, sweet, and has an endearing nature that weakens Lily's resolve. Just as Nealy is slowly but surely starting to drive her insane, Johnny Winter (Nealy's less than sanitary ferret) moves in too, much to Lily's disgust. (The feelings between Lily and Johnny Winter are mutual.)

A mystery involving the dead doctor, the attack, and perhaps even some of Lily's confidantes, quickly develops. Lily works to keep her law career afloat (her boss, Jackson, dumped a loser 'veggie baby' case on her) while untangling her client's death and her unshakeable feeling that it has something to do with her. Throw in a sexy detective, rottweilers, interesting co-workers, Nealy and Johnny Winter and you end up with a hilarious, fast-paced mystery that keeps the reader guessing until the very end. If you're looking for a great read and perhaps a bit of escapism during the holiday rush, Skinny-Dipping is the book for you. I eagerly await Matturro's next novel and hope that Johnny Winter has an encore role in it.

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