The murder victim is Elaine Wager, a brilliant African-American woman and a leading figure in the San Francisco legal community. Elaine was found shot to death in an alley, with a homeless heroin addict crouching above her, smoking gun in hand. This apparently open-and-shut case comes to Hardy's attention for two reasons. First, he discovers that Elaine is the daughter of his closest friend, Homicide Lieutenant Abe Glitsky. Second, the alleged killer turns out to be Cole Burgess, ne'er-do-well brother of yet another longtime friend. Hardy, caught in an irresolvable conflict, wants no part of Burgess's defense. But external circumstances force his hand, and he reluctantly changes his mind.
To begin with, Burgess's taped confession reveals significant inconsistencies and raises a number of inconvenient questions. In addition, District Attorney Sharron Pratt plans to make blatant political use of the killing by pushing, uncharacteristically, for the death penalty. Early on, Hardy makes a crucial strategic decision and throws all his efforts into avoiding a jury trial by winning decisively in the preliminary hearing. He knows his only serious chance lies in offering the presiding magistrate a plausible -- and provable -- alternative culprit. With that in mind, he launches his own independent investigation into Elaine Wager's death.
What follows is a hugely entertaining, occasionally improbable courtroom thriller in which Hardy -- together with Abe Glitsky and a host of associates old and new -- follows a trail of venality and violence from the bars and bedrooms of San Francisco's bottom feeders to the inner circles of the city's political elite. It's all great fun, and the furious melodrama acquires added depth through Lescroart's carefully shaded characterizations and his ongoing concern with the various ways people handle -- and sometimes fail to handle -- the large and small problems of everyday life. If you haven't encountered Lescroart before, by all means do so now. The Hearing is a first-rate, high-adrenaline narrative that offers a number of complex pleasures and marks Lescroart as the best courtroom novelist this side of Scott Turow. (Bill Sheehan)
Bill Sheehan reviews horror, suspense, and science fiction for Cemetery Dance, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other publications. His book-length critical study of the fiction of Peter Straub, At the Foot of the Story Tree, has been published by Subterranean Press (www.subterraneanpress.com).
About John LescroartSee more books from this Author