Book review: Look Again by Lisa Scottoline

Look Again
by Lisa Scottoline
Macmillan, 2009.

Perhaps best known for her loose series about the all-female Philadelphia law firm Rosato and associates, Look Again is a standalone novel by this very popular author. Ellen Gleeson is a feature reporter for a newspaper not unlike the Philadelphia Inquirer (for which the author writes a weekly column entitled Chick Wit, incidentally). In a terrible economic climate for the industry, the question hanging over everyone’s heads is who will be the next person to be “let go”. Ellen’s features are very successful so she hopes her job is safe for the moment, though some of her colleagues are not so lucky.

A few years ago, Ellen wrote a story about a baby with a serious heart defect. Ellen was drawn to the child because he seemed to have been abandoned, having no toys near his hospital crib and accepting his treatment listlessly. Ellen and the little boy bonded, leading to Ellen’s successful adoption of Will, who as the novel opens is about 4 years old. All seems to be going fine – although Ellen is a single parent she has an impossibly perfect babysitter. One day, Ellen’s life is turned upside down when she receives one of those “missing children” flyers in the mail: the picture is of a boy who is the exact likeness of Will.

The pace of the first half of the book is fast, as Ellen’s story is interspersed with her interviews of people for her features, and the nerviness she and her colleagues feel at work. The picture of the little boy preys on Ellen’s mind, particularly when she cannot find out anything from her adoption lawyer about Will’s history. Gradually, Ellen’s life becomes a nightmare, as she jettisons her work commitments and a potential office romance in order to discover the truth about Will and the boy in the picture. The tension is ratcheted up as Ellen goes to one extreme after another in her obsessive quest.

This novel is a great “comfort read” in the style of Linwood Barclay or Harlan Coben. The first two-thirds of the book really carried me along, though the final section was less exciting as it was correspondingly more predictable, as well as ditching most of the journalism aspects in favour of a mushy romance. After finishing the final page and thinking about the outcome, I realised there were some gaping holes in the plot, but at the time I was blissfully unaware of these and raced through the book, desperate to see where Ellen’s researches led to – certainly, for her, a path with no known destination.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Other reviews of Look Again: Book Maven, S Krishna’s books, The Mystery Reader and The Washington Post.

About the book at the author’s website.