The Rule of Law (Dismas Hardy #18), 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 publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Returning to add to his legal thriller series, John Lescroart crafts another winner that pulls much of the previous novels together, while offering interesting pathways for narrative development. Dismas Hardy continues to excel as a defence attorney in San Francisco, having seen many changes in the field of criminal law. From those who arrest suspects to the leaders seeking to put them away, Hardy is now forced to stomach a new District Attorney, the victor after a friend’s election falls short for a third term. This permits his old firm to cobble itself back together, slowly, though the law continues to evolve at break-neck speed. Hardy’s assistant of many years has gone missing from her desk, an anomaly not lost on the attorney. When she returns, Phyllis McGowan wishes not to speak of it. Days later, Phyllis is arrested at the office, charged as an accessory to the murder of an immigration coyote. It soon becomes apparent that Phyllis’ brother, Adam McGowan, has recently finished a prison term and is working with undocumented immigrants to America. A swift indictment in the grand jury and a DA who wants to take the case himself are only two aspects that are troubling to Hardy. When SFPD Detectives blow the whistle as well, Hardy is sure that the rush to judgment is meant to hide something else. It is then that the reader learns of a shootout from years before that this new DA is sure he can use to nail many of the prominent members of the legal and police community, creating his own witch hunt, which includes Hardy and those closest to him. By bending the rule of law, the DA might be setting his crosshairs on ridding San Francisco of some key players in the legal community, all while harbouring his own dark secret. Another great legal thriller for fans of Lescroart to enjoy. While the series is long and quite involved, for reasons I’ll discuss below, this one might actually work as a standalone for the curious reader looking to dive in.

I have long been a fan of Lescroart’s novels, particularly the multiple series than connect this larger San Francisco collection. These novels are rich with legal banter, but have also helped tie the reader down to a core group of characters, who weave their lives together in different ways and with varied degrees of importance, depending on Lescroart’s omnipotent decisions in that particular publication. Dismas Hardy, long the staple of the series and a strong protagonist, plays another central role in this novel. While the reader does not get a great deal of backstory, there is some development of his character as a defence attorney. Hardy has long had a passion for the law, something that is equalled only by that of those in his close circle. Lescroart shows that Hardy is willing to rise above and defend anyone in need of a legal mouthpiece, particularly when that person has been an essential part of his sustained profession. The handful of other series regulars also show themselves in ways that help progress their individual storylines, without crowding the pages with too much to remember. There are also those who are new to the scene, some who will surely appear only in this book, while others who might become new regulars, given the chance. Lescroart uses them effectively and pulls the reader into the middle of the story, while sifting through much of the questions left to simmer in previous novels. On that note, while Lescroart admits in his acknowledgments that this piece of writing was meant to tie off some loose ends rather than develop new and exciting plot lines, I could not help but notice an odd feature used throughout. While I understand that authors will sometimes remind readers about characters and situations in a series, as a refresher of sorts, there is some expectation that anyone jumping into the middle of the series ought to have a passing understanding. Lescroart repeatedly uses the “abc—xyz123–def” technique, overindulging in the editorial aside. While this can be done effectively, Lescroart uses it to remind the reader of so many of the names and places mentioned. Rather than using what I would call a more refined technique, the reader or forced to leap over these ‘bar hurdles’, for lack of a better word, and the momentum is lost. I do not remember seeing things as much in past pieces, though I will readily admit that I spent years choosing the audiobook version of Lescroart’s series. Still, this is a strong series that I hope many will discover in their own time. It spans decades (of writing), but novels can surely be devoured in short order.

Kudos, Mr. Lescroart, for another winner. I am eager to see where to take things, with many of the developments or resolutions presented with this novel

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Poison: A Novel (Dismas Hardy #17), by John Lescroart

Nine stars

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

As a long-time fan of John Lescroart and his work, I was pleased to receive an early copy of his latest legal thriller, which offers series fans much to digest while being highly entertained. Dismas Hardy is still recuperating from the harrowing end of the last novel, when he was shot twice at point blank range. Vowing to scale back at the legal practice and refuse any significant criminal work, Hardy is contacted by a former client whose was arrested for the murder of her boss. Hardy is willing to at least provide some early legal advice to Abby Jarvis, though remains at least somewhat dedicated to his promise, something his wife will demand he honour. The death of Grant Wagner shocked everyone, particularly since it was originally deemed a heart attack, only to be re-examined when one of the Wagner children could not understand the finding. Further inspection reveals that Wagner was actually poisoned, paired with other interesting pieces of evidence, including that Jarvis had been skimming from the company’s profits and that she had been spending a great deal of extra time with Wagner before his death. While the legal system moves forward, it is not only Hardy who feels that his client might be innocent. The entire Wagner family seems shocked that Jarvis might have murdered their father, aware of some secrets shared between Grant and Abby. As Hardy agrees to represent Abby at her arraignment, he pulls out all the stops, upsetting his former partner and current district attorney, challenging the validity of the evidence used to arrest his client, which opens a rare bail hearing and leaves everyone watching what else Hardy might have in store for the courtroom. When Wagner’s recent love interest is shot in the face and killed, it leaves SFPD Homicide to use all their resources to see if the shooting might be tied to Wagner’s murder. Trouble is, Abby Jarvis was behind bars during the shooting and could not have committed the crime. Can the Grant Wagner murder be fuelled by financial gain or might there be something far more sinister at play here? And how does all this tie into another recent shooting that has baffled SFPD Homicide? Lescroart does a masterful job with his full collection of San Francisco characters, sure to impress series fans and those who love a well-crafted legal thriller.

It is always a pleasure to pick up a John Lescroart legal thriller, or more generally, a piece from his ever-expanding ‘San Fran crew’ as I call them. As this extended series keeps its quality throughout the twenty-plus novels, it is enjoyable to dive into Lescroart’s work and discover the legal nuances he has to offer. Lescroart’s Dismas Hardy is always an interesting character, who has evolved throughout the series. While there has been little backstory offered over the last number of novels, the ever-flourishing developments within his family and legal units keeps the reader connected to this unique man. Hints throughout leave the reader wondering if there is some major change brewing, though surely Lescroart will force everyone to wait for the next novel to unveil his plans for this central character. There are a number of strong secondary characters, both those who appear regularly (and receive their own novels in the extended series) and the one-timers who appear within this novel. All the characters mesh well and promote a multi-faceted story that keeps the reader wondering as the narrative develops nicely. Turning to the story, Lescroart delivers a strong piece that looks not only to explore the legal nuances of Abby Jarvis’ case, but also some key areas of poison, finance, and familial interactions. Lescroart never enters a topic half-assed, choosing instead to show that he has done his work to permit the reader the most detailed information as possible. The narrative is heavy with all these areas of insight, but things do not get bogged down by this. Rather, they flourish and permit the reader new areas of interest that might pique their interest for personal exploration. I would be remiss if I did not mention the quality of Lescroart’s work. The novels always flow so well and chapters seem to melt away as the reader rushes through the narrative and finds a well-crafted story throughout. I can only hope that Lescroart will stick with the San Fran gang and let those novels propel him to continued greatness.

Kudos, Mr. Lescroart, for another stellar piece of writing. I have loved this series since first I discovered it and will recommend it to anyone who has an interest in legal thrillers.

This book fulfils Topic #1 in the Equinox #2 Book Challenge, A Book in a Series (not a debut).

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons