Fatal: A Novel, by John Lescroart

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, John Lescroart, and Atria Books for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.

Lescroart has made a name for himself, publishing over twenty legal thrillers with his collection of interconnected characters in the San Francisco area. Keeping with the Bay Area in this standalone novel, Lescroart shows readers why he remains a powerful writer no matter the characters he uses. After meeting at a dinner party, there appears to be a strong magnetism between Kate Jameson and Peter Ash. Kate finds herself acting out of her norm and lures him to a local hotel under false pretences. Defying his gut and normal practice, Peter allows himself to be seduced and their dalliance ends up weighing heavily on them both. Peter begins a life of philandering, as if his encounter with Kate has made him forget his wife and twins back home. Kate, too, has started to act odd in the eyes of her husband and children, as though the guilt is eating away at her. Out one day with best friend and SFPD Homicide Inspector Beth Tully, Kate is about to admit her deep secret, when the restaurant in which they are dining is attacked and scores are injured. Six months later, Beth is recovering slowly after being shot during the attack and Kate has made a significant recovery after slipping into a coma. Beth is alerted to the apparent murder of a man whose turned up in the Bay, one Peter Ash. As Beth and her partner begin trying to dig into the life of this man, the secret that seems to have pushed Kate and Peter to become shells of their former selves has begun leaking out, which leaves the list of potential suspects in Ash’s murder mounting. While this case preoccupies her, an act of kindness in another homicide opens up a connection to a distant witness, one that will open social pathways for he. Struggling to find out how she can help, Beth must not lose her momentum on this current homicide. While she remains unaware of Kate’s dalliance, Beth’s investigative memory will soon push her to ask those awkward questions to anyone who may know about Peter Ash and his less than stellar extra-curricular activities. When two others with a tangential connection to Ash die, presumably suicides after they are wracked with guilt, Beth may have found her murderer, which allows her to put the Ash case to rest. However, as Lescroart has taught his readers over the years, nothing is ever cut and dry when it comes to homicide. A wonderful novel that entertains as much as it does impress long-time fans and is sure to lure a new set of fans with ease.

Lescroart has become so synonymous with Dismas Hardy and the collection of other characters that I am not sure if this is a refreshing change or has me pining for more off-colour humour. The story was wonderfully laid out, offering a mystery woven into the plot line that eschews little judgement for the affair. How two people’s lives can change so dramatically and affect so many based on a single decision is surely front and centred throughout the story, though the characters chosen offer such a varied reaction that Lescroart need not worry about his story losing momentum throughout. It clips along with ease and the shift of protagonists is done without so much as an awkward bridging, though the homicide investigation does take front and centre, alongside the personal plight of a brief case Beth handled in the early part of her introduction to the story. Lescroart writes what he knows, at least from a San Francisco point of view, and this affirms the greatness of his story. This novel does take some getting used to (at least for long-time fans), as the other shoe does not drop until late in the game, leaving the reader to guess at suspects and keeping any courtroom drama from anywhere in this story. That said, it is perhaps this difference that keeps readers hooked and goes to show Lescroart’s versatile nature.  

Kudos, Mr. Lescroart on another success. I was so pleased to be able to see a different side to your writing, though I am still pining for more Dismas, Abe, and the rest of the gang.