About the Author:
Lisa Scottoline, a former trial attorney, is the author of seven previous novels, including the New York Times bestsellers Moment of Truth and Mistaken Identity. She lives near Philadelphia, PA.
About the Author
Date of Birth:July 1, 1955
Place of Birth:Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Education:B.A., University of Pennsylvania, 1976; J.D., University of Pennsylvania Law School, 1981
Read an Excerpt
The morning Tony Lucia killed Angelo Coluzzi, he was late to feed his pigeons. As long as Tony had kept pigeons, which was for almost all of his seventy-nine years, he had never been late to feed them, and they began complaining the moment he opened the screen door. Deserting their perches, cawing and cooing, they flew agitated around the cages, their wings pounding against the chicken wire, setting into motion the air in the tiny city loft. It didn't help that the morning had dawned clear and that March blew hard outside. The birds itched to fly.
Tony waved his wrinkled hand to settle them, but his heart wasn't in it. They had a right to their bad manners, and he was a tolerant man. It was okay with him if the birds did only one thing, which was to fly home. They were homers, thirty-seven of them, and it wasn't an easy job they had, to travel to a place they'd never been, a distance in some races of three hundred or four hundred miles, then to navigate their return through skies they'd never flown, over city and country they'd never seen and couldn't possibly know, to flap their way home to a tiny speck in the middle of South Philadelphia, all without even stopping to congratulate themselves for this incredible feat, one that man couldn't even explain, much less accomplish.
There were so many mistakes a bird could make. Circling too long, as if it were a joyride or a training toss. Getting distracted on the way, buffeted by sudden bad weather, or worse, simply getting tired and disoriented -- thousands of things could result in the loss of a precious bird. Even once the first bird had made it home, the race wasn't won. Many races hadbeen lost by the bird who wouldn't trap fast enough; the one who was first to reach his loft but who stopped on the roof, dawdling on his way to the trap, so that his leg band couldn't be slipped off and clocked in before another man's bird.
But Tony's birds trapped fast. He bred them for speed, intelligence, and bravery, through six and even seven generations, and over time the birds had become his life. It wasn't a life for the impatient. It took years, even decades, for Tony to see the results of his breeding choices, and it wasn't until recently that his South Philly loft had attained the best record in his pigeon-racing club.
Suddenly the screen door banged open, blown by a gust of wind, startling Tony and frightening the birds in the first large cage. They took panicky wing, seventeen of them, all white as Communion wafers, transforming their cage into a snowy blizzard of whirring and beating, squawking and calling. Pinfeathers flurried and snagged on the chicken wire. Tony hurried to the loft door, silently reprimanding himself for being so careless. Normally he would have latched the screen behind him -- the old door had bowed in the middle, warped with the rain, and wouldn't stay shut without the latch -- but this morning, Tony's mind had been on Angelo Coluzzi.
The white pigeons finally took their perches, which were small plywood boxes lining the walls, but in their panic they had displaced each other, violating customary territories and upsetting altogether the pecking order, which led to a final round of fussing. "Mi dispiace," Tony whispered to the white birds. I'm sorry, in Italian. Though Tony understood English, he preferred Italian. As did his birds, to his mind.
He gazed at the white pigeons, really doves, which he found so beautiful. Large and healthy, the hue of their feathers so pure Tony marveled that only God could make this color. Their pearliness contrasted with the inky roundness of their eye, which looked black but in fact was the deepest of reds, blood-rich. Tony even liked their funny bird-feet, with the flaky red scales and the toe in back with a talon as black as their eyes pretended to be. And he kidded himself into thinking that the doves behaved better than the other birds. More civilized, they seemed aware of how special they were.
The secret reason for the doves' special status was that they were beloved of his son, who had finally stopped Tony from releasing them at weddings for a hundred fifty dollars a pop. Tony had thought it made a good side business; why not make some money to pay for the seed and medicines, plus keep the birds in shape during the off-season? And it made Tony happy to see the brides, whose hearts lifted at the flock of doves taking off outside the church, since you couldn't throw rice anymore. It reminded his heart of his own wedding day, less grand than theirs, though such things didn't matter when it came to love. But his son had hated the whole idea. They're not trained monkeys, Frank had said. They're athletes.
So Tony had relented. "Mi dispiace," he whispered again, this time to his son. But Tony couldn't think about Frank now. It would hurt too much, and he had birds to feed. He shuffled down the skinny aisle, and his old sneakers, their soles worn flat, made a swishing sound on the whitewash of the plywood floor. The floor had held up okay, unlike the screen door; Tony had built the loft himself when he first came to America from Abruzzo, sixty years ago. The loft measured thirty feet long, with the single door in the middle opening onto a skinny aisle that ran the short length of the building. It occupied all of Tony's backyard, as if the loft and yard were nesting boxes. Off the aisle of the loft were three large chicken wire cages lined with box perches. The aisle ended in a crammed feed room, the seed kept safe from rats in a trash can, and there was a bookshelf holding antibiotics, lice sprays, vitamins, and other supplies, all labels out, in clean white shelves.The Vendetta Defense. Copyright © by Lisa Scottoline. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Reading Group Guide
Many book clubs have written Lisa asking for questions to guide their discussion, so Lisa came up with a bunch for each book. Her goal in writing books is to entertain, so it goes without saying that Lisa wants you to have lots of fun discussing her books, and has reflected that in her questions. She provides the talking points, and you and your group shape the conversation. So go ahead, get together, chat it up with your friends, discuss books, kids, and relationships, but by all means, have fun.
- What is up with the pigeons? What kind of new kick is Lisa on? Why does she tells us so damn much about pigeons? Will she ever shut about pigeons? Does this matter to plot or character at all? Hint: Lisa is far smarter than she looks. Or acts.
- Should this book start on Chapter Two? Would we like it better? No hints. I really want to know what you think. Email me and sound off.
- Was Pigeon Tony right to do what he did? Would you have? Do you understand? Do you love/ hate the flashbacks?
- Why is Judy the star of this book? Is she good/bad/better/worse than other Scottoline heroines? Do you like her? Does it matter if you do?
- What about the Tonys? Are they in there for purpose or just wacky? What could possibly be the purpose? Should Judy trespass in the junkyard? Can you spell sfogatelle?
- How hunky is Frank? Does someone named Frank automatically come out hunky or is just me? Is it relevant that Frank is my father's name? Or is this just plain sick?
- Are the Coluzzi's, the Tonys, Frank and Pigeon Tony Italian stereotypes? Does it matter? Why? Doesthe Italian-ness of these characters matter, or is Lisa just trying to make a point about identity to further characterize her already sensational characterizations?
- Like the courtroom scenes or are you bored? Agree with the verdict or not? How would you have voted if you were on the jury?
- How many Scottoline characters are owned by golden retrievers?
About the author
Lisa Scottoline is a New York Times bestselling author and former trial lawyer. She has won the Edgar Award, the highest prize in suspense fiction, and the Distinguished Author Award from the Weinberg Library of the University of Scranton. She has served as the Leo Goodwin Senior Professor of Law and Popular Culture at Nova Southeastern Law School, and her novels are used by bar associations for the ethical issues they present. Her books are published in more than twenty languages. She lives with her family in the Philadelphia area.
Exclusive Author Essay
My Passion by Lisa Scottoline
When Barnes & Noble asked me to write about my passion, I had to think hard. I have so many I couldn't choose. Tomato sauce with sweet basil came instantly to mind, as did good novels, which are an addiction. Red pickup trucks are definitely right up there, and golden retrievers, too. (Golden retrievers in red pickups send me into orbit.) Plus, I admit to being a huge Elvis fan. And Frank Sinatra, of course. You can't be Italian American without loving Francis Albert. They throw you right out.
But when I really think about the one thing that really interests me, and that isn't dead or fattening, the answer is clear:
People are my passion. I love them. And not just the people in my family but other people. Mostly, all people. We're talking about strangers here. The people they warn you not to speak to, I seek out. Ironically, as a fiction writer, I have the most isolated job in the universe -- I sit alone in a room every day for a year to write a novel -- but that has only made me appreciate people more. When I get out of my little room, even to run the most mundane errands, I have the time of my life.
I strike up conversations with high school girls in the ladies' room at the mall, about the merits of liquid versus pencil eyeliner (pencil is totally last year). I chat with old men in the produce aisle about how lousy the strawberries were this summer (the ones from Jersey were still good, so who needs Florida?). I yap with the teenage boy at the gas station about how long it took his cartilage pierce to heal (three weeks, and witch hazel sucks). The lady at the post office can't housebreak her Doberman. I don't tell her she should have gotten a golden. She knows that now.
As you can see, mostly I just listen to people. Everybody has a story; the story of their life. Older people offer that up easily, knowing how valuable it is. They will tell you how they sprinkled baby powder on the dance floors to jitterbug faster, and how they listened to Fiorello La Guardia read them the Sunday comics on the radio. You will wonder how they lived through world wars, and they will tell you that, too.
Younger people need to be prodded, because they don't realize how interesting they are, or how much fun. I ask a few questions and they give away the store, even if it is mostly about Ricky Martin. Every generation needs its Elvis.
Sometimes people, being curious by nature, ask me what I do for a living, and I tell them that I write popular fiction. Thrillers. The first thing they ask is: Where do you get your ideas? And I always answer:
Because it's the truth.
I swear to Francis Albert.
Lisa Scottoline, a former trial attorney, is the author of seven previous novels, including the New York Times bestsellers Moment of Truth and Mistaken Identity. She lives near Philadelphia.