Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What we're reading: New thriller

I just finished The Keeper, by John Lescroart, over the weekend. This is number 15 in his Dismas Hardy series, which I have been reading since #1 (Dead Irish), which released in 1990!

I have always been a big fan of Lescroart's legal thrillers, and have recommended him to many other readers over the years, but I feel like in some respects he has written himself into a corner in this series, and is now trying to write himself out of it, with varied success.

In his usual San Francisco law-and-order setting, litigators go from independent practice to big law firms, cops move from department to department, prosecutors have become defense attorneys and vice versa, detectives are forcibly retired and become private investigators--which I like. It's good to shake things up so they don't get stale. Nobody wants to read books with the identical dynamic in a series this long. But at the same time, if you have set up specific character traits for your protagonists that have become well known over an arc of multiple (or more than a dozen!) books, it just feels wrong to then make them work against character, which is what I believe Lescroart did in this book.

In a previous book in the series, the formidable Detective Abe Glitsky was pushed out of the homicide squad into early retirement, and in this one he is at loose ends--taking the kids to school and reading a lot--until his pal, defense attorney Dismas Hardy, asks him to do some investigating. The mystery is a compelling one--a young wife and mother has disappeared, and is presumed dead--but where's the body? Suspicion falls, as it often does, on the husband, who is Hardy's client. He is also a guard at the San Francisco County Jail, and the investigation of his wife's disappearance eventually leads to the revelation of a labyrinthine conspiracy within the jail, and to the examination of questionable deaths, with a hunt for those responsible. So--a compelling story.

But what Glitsky does in pursuit of tying up all these loose ends is so loose cannon of him that I found it hard to believe he was the same guy I've been following all these years. I just didn't buy that he would go quite that far off the reservation (and make so many illogical blunders), after maintaining a stern code of ethics (with a few spectacular exceptions that have weighed on him ever since) for so many years.

I also figured out who the murderer was with more than 75 pages to go, so it wasn't such a compelling read after that. More of a waiting for the revelation and a curiosity about how Lescroart would do that--which cemented my feelings about the out-of-character behavior of Glitsky! I'd love to sit down with the author to understand his thinking.
Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad book--I quite enjoyed it as a whole, particularly all the what ifs that led me hither and yon--but as a long-time fan, I was dismayed by the direction Lescroart took one of my favorite characters. We'll see what happens in the next one...

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