As a dedicated Scottoline fan, I enjoyed Daddys Girl immensely. Definitely one of the best in a great series.
Don't blame the author for the title. Ultimately the publisher gets the final word. And when deciding whether to buy this novel, with a highly visible author, do we really look at the title?
Mostly, I found this novel draws on many of Scottoline's recurring themes. For example:
Ordinary woman, extraordinary achievements: As usual, we're introduced to a very down-to-earth, very human heroine who also happens to be an achiever. If anything, Scottoline downplays the sheer magnitude of getting a tenure-track position in an Ivy League law school. She has the all too common worries about keeping up appearance and coping in a male-dominated world. Inside, she's conflicted. Outwardly, she's so accomplished she's scary.
Family: Scottoline's families tend to be large, Italian, loving and possessive. She departs from the profile here, introducing a macho family where the heroine feels like an outsider. Dysfunctional? In Scottoline's novels, whatever happens, blood will trump water anytime.
Outrageous risks: I love watching Scottoline's heroines cross over the edge as they go running from the law. In an earlier novel, a heroine takes over a conference room of a law firm, claiming to be from a branch office. Talk about "Hide in plain sight." Heroine Natalie goes out on a limb here. Alas, I can't say more without being accused of spoilers.
Intricate plot and satisfying ending: Scottoline keeps throwing one curve after another, right up to the end. Experienced mystery readers will get early hunches about the outcome, but it feels right.
Law vs. justice: An ongoing quest among Scottoline's novels. Here the case seems less ambiguous than most. But it comes up.
Juicy characters: I loved Natalie's family! And I hope to see Natalie herself in future novels. True, some of the prisoners and guards seemed to blend together. The law school dean and assistant dean seem less than 3-dimensional but they remind me of some business school administrators I've known.
Edgy dialogue: I like the way Scottoline juxtaposes the heroine's inner comebacks (italicized) with her outward, polite comments.
Diversity of the legal profession: So far, we've seen litigators, defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges, law firm associates, independent counsels...everyone! It's nice to meet a law professor this time around.
Finally, as a former business school professor, I found the law school scenes compelling and realistic. I remember being assigned to teach a small class in a large room. You really do face unique challenges in creating a productive classroom dynamic.
Scottoline used some artistic license in exaggerating the attitudes of Natalie's students. She did take action to motivate them to prepare more for class.
But as a female professor, Natalie always walks a finer line than her male counterparts. Female professors are constantly being tested. We're expected to understand problems ranging from child care to computer meltdowns. Even when I've taught online, I find students are more likely to ask for deadline extensions and special consideration.
And they're far more critical. Studies show that women and ethnic minorities tend to get lower course evaluations. Male professors get far more leeway when it comes to dress and classroom topics.
The experience of being a female lawyer -- from the inside out -- is yet another Scottoline theme. And here, in a lighthearted way, I believe she also captures the female professor experience.
And now we have to wait at least a year for the next Scottoline novel. That's the only bad news.