Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Suspect

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of The Suspect (Dutton, 2007).

I've really been enjoying John Lescroart's novels more and more as they go on. It looks like I've got five more ahead of me, with a sixth to be published this year, and I hope he's got many more to come. As he increases the number of his characters and expands their world, they become more vivid and real than so many of his peers in the business of series fiction.

One of his secret weapons has been the use of multiple protagonists. High-powered lawyer Dismas Hardy or veteran cop Abe Glitsky are certainly able to carry stories on their own, but with the release of 2005's The Hunt Club, he expanded their world to add a private investigator and his agency, and, in 2007's The Suspect, he gave Gina Roake, one of Hardy's senior partners, the lead role. This isn't at all like how Robert B. Parker had separate series of books that shared supporting characters between them; rather, these books star a community, a family of friends and co-workers, and any of the characters can become the lead.

At this point in the series, Gina Roake is in her fifties, and still devastated by the loss of her unlikely fiancee, the irrepressible gadfly David Freeman who had died a few years previously. Roake finds herself defending a literary hero of hers, a writer named Stuart Gorman. Complicating things - and this being a Lescroart novel, things are already very, very complicated - is the inspector assigned to the crime, Devin Juhle, the close friend of the firm's main investigator, Wyatt Hunt. The Hunt-Juhle friendship echoes the established Hardy-Gltsky relationship, and nobody is ever happy about the possibility that these friendships are being taken for granted, or used for legal advantage.

Roake really needed a turn in the spotlight. Hardy and her other partner Wes Farrell have a little more life to them, and she enters this book somewhat defined and constrained by the loss of David Freeman. But with a past that comes back to haunt her, and a recommendation of her services that turns out to be a lot less flattering than she first thought, she's a real standout character by the end of the book. As always, the mystery and the questions about who is being truthful and who is hiding important secrets will keep readers guessing who to believe, because Lescroart doesn't go in for unreliable narrators so much as entire unreliable casts. Even though this novel doesn't (for the most part) have that lingering sense of danger hanging over everybody in it - and that's actually a welcome break - it is still a very fun and very engaging read. I enjoyed the daylights out of it.

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