Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Ophelia Cut

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 Ophelia Cut (Atria, 2013).

This was a very nice treat. A few weeks ago, I treated myself to the first novel in John Lescroart's series of detective / legal thrillers featuring Dismas Hardy, written back in 1989. In it, Dismas's future wife, Frannie, was pregnant with a baby, later to be named Rebecca and take the nickname "the Beck." Since the books move in nearly-real time, the Beck is in her mid-twenties in Lescroart's newest novel, and first for a new publisher, The Ophelia Cut. She's in law school and attempting to be the conscience for her wild and crazy cousin.

Knowing all the family trees of Lescroart's sprawling cast isn't necessary to enjoy this latest book in the series, because the crime at the center of this one is a universal fear. The Beck's cousin attracts a stalker, and wakes up date-raped at his hands. Her father - Dismas's brother-in-law - had already beaten up the jerk, and so when the guy is found dead two mornings after the assault, it's natural that the police will want to ask him a few questions.

This being a Lescroart novel, there's far, far more than that going on. With all the elegant balancing of a warehouse floor full of dominoes, one little tip results in a spectacular cascade of interrelated drama. There's the jerk's boss - a city supervisor - and there's bribery, and massage parlors, and a fellow in witness protection working in the brother-in-law's bar. There's an accusation of police cover-up, and another shocking surprise in the career of Dismas's cop best friend, Lt. Abe Glitsky. And of course there are the usual darts and ridiculous T-shirts and cast iron skillets and the specials at Lou the Greek's.

But at the end of this one, honestly, things aren't going to be the same. There's a shakeup at the conclusion of this book that will change everything in the weird and wonderful "family tree" of all of Hardy's friends and associates in the biggest way since Abe and Treya had a couple more kids. It's a stunning reminder that the other side of the books aging in real time means that the lead characters are middle-aged now.

It's a huge shame that more people don't know these characters! Some of the books in the series are a little denser than others - another Lescroart hallmark is the extreme attention to detail, even in avenues that will prove less vital to the resolution than their inclusion suggested - and some required a little more patience than others, but overall, I'm extremely pleased to have found Lescroart, and think this is a very welcome addition to the canon. I'm looking forward to the next one, as soon as the author can deliver!

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