Daddy’s Girl is 14th book of Edgar Award winning author Lisa Scottoline. The protagonist is Nat Greco, a young law professor struggling with defining her personal life and mastering teaching. While accompanying a fellow teacher to give a lesson in a county prison, a prison riot breaks out. In the ensuing chaos, Nat happens upon an injured prison guard, who whispers, “tell my wife it’s under the floor,” to her before passing away. Driven by curiosity from this message as well as a series of fishy situations at the prison, Nat starts investigating the murder and the happenings at the prison. The adventure becomes increasingly dangerous as Nat finds herself on the run after facing personal danger and even becoming the prime suspect of the murder of a state trooper. Along the way, Nat reevaluates her relationship with her boyfriend, her handsome coworker, and her family. Eventually Nat finds herself in an abandoned barn that is covering an old hiding place on the Underground Railroad of the 19th century and realizes that the cryptic message points to the creation of a tunnel for the escape of a high security prisoner. Nat rushes to the prison, arriving just in time to stop the escape and clear her name.
Daddy’s Girl exemplifies many of the characteristics of the mystery genre. It fits the strict definition of mystery provided in the textbook, that there is a murder and an investigation of that murder. However, the book also explores the larger related mystery of what is going on at the county prison. The story ends with victory of the protagonist, and all guilty characters are put away. Like many mysteries, the story line is enhanced with “strong elements of suspense and intrigue,” and the main character encounters dangerous situations repeatedly. Characterization of the protagonist is a major sub-theme of the book. By the end of the book, Nat Greco has matured and become independent, redefined what she wants in romantic relationships, and explored her relationship with her family. The setting, current day Philadelphia and the surrounding area, from the University of Pennsylvania to the surrounding countryside, plays a role the book as well. The work of Nat and her coworkers as law professors provides interesting frame details to the novel. The tone is dark but not gritty (neither hard boiled nor soft boiled as a whole) and the pace is relatively fast – the novel is definitely a page-turner. Daddy’s Girl fits the subgenre of amateur detective mystery. The soft boiled, naive Nat Greco is a law professor by trade who becomes an investigator out of curiosity and a bit of a sense of responsibility. Of the two subtypes provided in the lecture, Nat is more of the later, pushed into investigating by circumstance and eventually becoming a police suspect for a crime rather than a natural inclination towards being a detective. The novel is missing several typical aspects of the subgenre, however. Nat Greco does not have any connection to the police force, the police force is unaware of her investigations, and her methods do not require suspension of disbelief (for the most part). Of the crime-solving methods listed in the lecture, Nat Greco ultimately uses intuition/inspiration to come to the final conclusion. There is not anything of particular note in Scottoline’s language or style, the only missing characteristic of those listed in the textbook.
Despite being drawn in by it, I did not enjoy this book. The protagonist did not strike me as realistic or likable. The sudden realization of the conclusion – that an escape tunnel is being built at the prison – is a twist I saw as not realistic or supported by the collected clues.For that reason, this book would not be great for readers who enjoy solving the mystery before the investigator. I also thought that the book was poorly written and had several plot holes.I would generally not recommend this book to others because of my personal opinion on it. However, this book is easy to read, intriguing, and a page-turner. Between this, the darker tone, and the suspense, Daddy’s Girl would likely appeal to readers of thrillers, suspense, and adventure books.