Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Lescroart”

Valyruh’s #CBR4 Review #99: Nothing But the Truth by John Lescroart

Lescroart has done it again, producing a novel which is just as much about character as it is about plot, and excelling on both fronts. Nothing But the Truth centers around the efforts of San Francisco former cop-turned-defense lawyer Dismas Hardy to ferret out the truth behind the murder of chemist and environmental activist Bree Beaumont, as a means to free his wife from jail, where she is sitting out days of contempt charges for refusing to reveal to a grand jury the secret confided by her friend, Beaumont’s husband Ron.

At first, Hardy can’t fathom why Fanny Hardy would accept jail in defense of Ron—who has taken his children and fled a police investigation into his wife’s murder—while leaving their own children motherless. And the more he probes, the more he fears the worst, that his wife was having an affair with Ron. Hardy’s emotions range from anger at Fanny’s suspected betrayal to fear of losing his beloved partner in life, to confused yearning for the uncomplicated existence of his single days, to guilt over his incompetence at fathering his children. His emotions make Hardy very human, and enable the reader to stand in his shoes as he tries to discover a way of balancing work and home life.

Lescroart’s skillful exploration of the stresses, and sometimes the lies, that can fester in a marriage extends into Hardy’s private investigation into the Beaumont murder, which in turn becomes increasingly complicated as he ties in the seemingly-unrelated murder of the cop investigating Beaumont’s death, the gubernatorial candidate for whom Beaumont worked before she was killed, and the money of big oil and environmental terrorism which lies behind the murder. In fact, while a powerfully-wrought personal journey, Nothing But the Truth is also a compelling expose of how both government and big business manipulate and exploit the very public they are supposed to represent.

The novel begins quite slowly, but begins to pick up speed as Lescroart has Hardy pull the strands of the plot together. There are a lot of suspects, a lot of motives, and the good guys are stymied by the belligerance of a District Attorney’s office which values political capital over the law. And even when the identity of the killer is revealed, Lescroart still has more to say. And it is all worth the hearing.

Valyruh’s #CBR Review #47: Damage by John Lescroart

Lescroart gives us our bad guy at the very beginning of Damage, a not-uncommon technique which works well in this, his latest novel. Roland Curtlee, the spoiled sociopathic son of one of San Francisco’s wealthiest and most connected families, has just been released from jail on a technicality, after nearly 9 years behind bars for the rape and murder of one of his family’s Hispanic maids. The Curtlees regularly recruit vulnerable young Central American women for their staff, assuring themselves of their benevolence while (unwittingly?) providing Roland a ready supply of victims for his sexual depredations. “Ro” is now out on the street, and out for revenge. The first to go is one of the maids who testified against him at his trial, and she dies horribly. Another former maid is in hiding, but Curtlee money is certain to sniff her out eventually.

Everyone—except perhaps for Ro’s own self-deluded parents—knows Ro and his “bodyguard” are on a killing spree, including top homicide cop and Lescroart regular Abe Glitsky, newly-appointed DA and another Lescroart regular Wes Farrell,  the former prosecutor on the case, and others. But the mayor is in the Curtlees’ pocket, and so Ro remains at large. Efforts to turn up sufficient evidence to take the killer off the streets are blocked at every turn, and the careers and family lives of his opponents start to crack under a combination of Curtlee political pressure and outright threats. The tension is super-heated and readers will hold their breaths to see who else will die before Ro gets his.

Farrell is a particularly interesting character in this story. A long-standing defense attorney with enough quirks to make him eminently loveable, he suddenly finds himself in the job of the city’s top prosecutor and thus in the political cross-hairs of the corrupt–and corrupting–Curtlee family. As DA, he tries to stick to the letter of the law, which means leaving Ro out on bail, but somewhere along the way is convinced that the law needs tweaking if lives are to be protected. And thus Lescroart introduces one of his favorite themes: is the law open to interpretation, and where do the lines get drawn? A fascinating and provocative issue, to be sure.

Lescroart adds another level of intrigue to his story by killing off the wife of the jury foreman from Ro’s trial 9 years earlier. Although she dies exactly like the maids, there are some questions in Farrell’s mind that he’s having a hard time answering.  Is there another “bad guy” to be unveiled? Once Ro is back in jail, should he charge him with the murder of the foreman’s wife and clear his slate, or should he continue to investigate?

My one complaint about this book is Lescroart’s choice of an all-too-stereotypical spoiled scion of a corrupt family who preys on the family’s maids. How many books have we all read with that as the theme? Perhaps the practice is more prevalent than I could imagine–coming from a working-class family, I’ve had no experience with maids or spoiled wealthy psychopaths. Anyway…

The denouement of Damage is mostly satisfying, ending a “Mexican stand-off” that had this reader biting her nails to the quick. Still, it left the question of whether the law can or should be “tweaked” mostly unanswered. Or did it? May the reader decide.

Valyruh’s #CBR4 Review # 46: The Hunter by John Lescroart

I have loved all of Lescroart’s thrillers, which delve into the oft-treated world of cops, lawyers, and bad guys, but take them out of cardboard city and bring them to real life. Not only are we given cops vs. lawyers, prosecutors vs. defense attorneys, politicians vs. the law, the law vs. morality, and so on, but we are also given the histories of all of these individuals, their families, their tragedies and their dreams. Lescroart’s novels offers clever and interesting plots, full-fledged characters and snappy pacing that keeps the reader’s interest to the end. His books are far from perfect, but they entertain and on occasion provoke. Good enough for me, most of the time.

All that said, I enjoyed The Hunter, one of Lescroart’s latest books, but found some stuff to bitch about, too. The author chooses as the protagonist one of his less interesting characters, private eye Wyatt Hunt. We learn at the beginning of the story (1) that Hunt and his lawyer/girlfriend Gina are breaking up, (2) that Hunt has the hots for his much younger secretary Tamara, whom he had rescued from a horrendous situation years’ earlier, and (3) that he had spent many of his formative years in the foster system but was eventually adopted and raised by loving parents. Someone suddenly sends Hunt a text message asking if he knows how his (real) mother died, thereby prying open carefully-buried abandonment issues and setting the stage for what turns out to be a very convoluted but still exciting novel.

When he finally uncovers the story of his adoption, Hunt learns that his mother was allegedly killed by his father, who was released after two mistrials and then disappeared, leaving only a letter insisting on his innocence. The more Hunt digs, the more complicated the plot, which intersects with the very real story of the Jim Jones cult’s mass suicide in Guyana in 1978, and with its continued insidious influence to the present time. The story contains lots of fascinating turns and twists, with the texter who put the whole scenario in motion turning out to be a surprising but clever choice but who nonetheless, in my opinion (slight spoiler alert here!), should not have been allowed to get off scott-free in the end. A Lescroart cop-out, I thought.

My biggest complaint is that Hunt’s relationship with Tamara is totally unnecessary to the story–not only poorly-conceived but with dialogue of a caliber far below Lescroart’s usual standard. The author has not suffered this problem in romantic exchanges with his other characters, so I’m not sure why this one went off the rails. The only thing I can think of is that perhaps Lescroart realized subconsciously that turning Hunt from a rescuer of this young, lovely woman with the horrible history of abuse, into her much-older lover was somehow inappropriate, and he kept straining to somehow make it right. Sorry, John, it just didn’t work. That aside, the book is an exciting—and different—addition to Lescroart’s many successes.

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