A PLAGUE OF SECRETS by John Lescroart

Book Quote:

“Never mind that their convictions flew in the face of the first law of criminal investigation—facts must flow from demonstrable evidence, and not the other way round, where the evidence is massaged or explained to fit a set of predetermined perceptions.”

Book Review:

Reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky (JUL 11, 2009)

In John Lescroart’s A Plague of Secrets, San Francisco-based criminal defense attorney Dismas Hardy once again takes center stage, along with his close friend, Abe Glitsky, the head of San Francisco’s Homicide Department, and Hardy’s investigator, Wyatt Hunt. Hardy’s latest client, thirty-two year old Maya Townshend, is a wealthy woman whose husband makes millions in the real estate business. She also owns Bay Beans West, a popular coffee shop. When the shop’s manager, Dylan Vogler, who sidelines as a marijuana dealer, is found shot dead, suspicion falls on Maya. An aggressive homicide inspector, Debra Schiff, contends that Maya had a strong motive to want Vogler dead and a flimsy alibi to account for her whereabouts during the shooting.

Schiff is concerned because Maya’s brother is Harlen Fisk, a former cop and member of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors and Maya’s aunt is Mayor Kathy West. With connections like these, it will be difficult to nail her. However, Debra is willing to go the extra mile to insure that Townshend is arrested, even if it means widening the probe with the help of federal attorney Jerry Glass. Because of a serious personal issue that has is preoccupying Abe Glitsky, he gives Schiff more leeway than he normally would in such a high profile matter. Fearing that his sister is being railroaded, Fisk asks Dismas to be Maya’s criminal defense attorney; she will need Hardy’s considerable skills and courtroom savvy to get out of this mess. When another body turns up, the stakes are instantly raised. Although there is only a small amount of physical evidence pointing to Maya, the circumstantial evidence is damning.

Unsurprisingly, political shenanigans, underhanded tactics, and jockeying for favorable media attention all take precedence over the dispensation of justice. Hardy fears that “the entire courtroom drama could unfold as a large multi-tentacled conspiracy fueled by drugs and moral turpitude in high places.” On the plus side, Hardy is an old pro who has rarely lost a case, and he is not easily intimidated. In addition, he knows how to navigate the difficult terrain of a criminal trial with the best of them. The most absorbing scenes are those that take place in the courtroom. Diz and his opponent, assistant DA, Paul Stier, both try to score points with the jury and attempt to stay on the “good” side of the ill-tempered and sardonic Superior Court judge, Marian Braun. If Maya is innocent, then it is reasonable to assume that she was framed by a clever perpetrator. This is the famous SODDI (Some Other Dude Did It) defense. While Hardy and his team search for the “other dude,” the only clear thing about this murky case is that a number of witnesses are lying, including Maya herself.

This is not one of Lescroart’s best works. The complex plot generates few sparks and most readers will not be sufficiently invested in the lifeless Maya to care very much about her fate. Rather slow moving at times, A Plague of Secrets lacks the freshness, character development, and thought-provoking themes that have made Lescroart so popular in recent years. Although red herrings abound to keep readers guessing, this novel lacks the electricity and originality that would have lifted it above the mundane.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 59 readers
PUBLISHER: Dutton Adult (June 30, 2009)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
AUTHOR WEBSITE: John Lescroart
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: More reviews of books in this series:

And a review of his stand-alone thriller:


Auguste Lupa Series:

Dismas Hardy / Lt. Abe Glitskey Series:

Wyatt Hunt / Insp. Devin Juhle:

Gina Roarke / Insp. Devin Juhle:

Music by the author:

July 11, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: California, Sleuths Series

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