Thursday, December 23, 2010
Over at least ten novels John Lescroat has created a fictional San Francisco world with recurring characters from politics, the law and the police. We are treated to their struggles with legal, moral and ethical issues as they fight crime and punish criminals. In this story Wes Farrell, a defense attorney and law partner of Dismas Hardy takes center stage. Farrell has been recently elected as the DA in San Francisco. Farrell is confronted with an influential newspaper owning family (the Cutlers) whose son Roland, a convicted murderer has just had his prison term ended because of a technicality in his prior trial. Farrell, not settling easily into his new role as chief prosecutor, doesn’t fight to prevent Roland’s release on bail. Despite pleas from the police (Inspector Glitsky) and others in the DA’s office Farrell allows Roland’s release as he awaits a new trial. Mayhem ensues. A witness from the first trail is murdered; an investigator from the DA’s office is killed. The jury foreman from the first trial, who was instrumental in ensuring Roland’s conviction, finds his wife murdered also.
There is a brisk pace to this novel and the characters have a refreshing depth to them. The main characters have their personal stories in addition to their professional roles. The setting, San Francisco is well drawn, the weather is appropriately poor and the characters are continually looking for a parking spot – a detail that rings true. The plotting isn’t complex. For the most part the killer is known and the story explores the legal issues around getting Roland back in jail. There is a subplot related to one of the murders but I admit to figuring that one out early in the story. I had a real problem with the way the author resolved the story. After spending most of the novel trying to work the legal system to lock up this guy in the end the author took the easy way out and had the entire family murdered by a maid who had been raped by Roland. The secondary plot about the murder of the jury foreman’s wife is resolved with a little more suspense.
While this chapter in the story of San Francisco crime fighting community contains the cut throat politics and usual cynicism we come to expect from these guys it is not a particularly compelling mystery. Lescroat fans will not rate this as one of the stronger books in this series but still a page turner and worth a read.
I read an advanced reader copy of this book provided by the publisher.