Ten years after his conviction, a legal technicality sets a murderous rapist free, with predictably disastrous results.
Everyone who matters knows that Roland Curtlee raped at least three Guatemalan servants in his wealthy parents’ employ and killed one of them. The moment a San Francisco judge sets him free on the grounds that the buttons with photos of Dolores Sandoval that supporters of the victim wore to the courthouse were unreasonably prejudicial, the violence resumes. Felicia Nuñez, another domestic who testified against him, is strangled and her apartment set ablaze. Even though her corpse is naked except for her shoes—a signature preference of Ro’s—there’s no physical evidence linking him to the crime scene. Nor is there any hard evidence when psychiatrist Janice Durbin, the wife of the jury foreman who argued for Ro’s conviction, is found dead under remarkably similar circumstances. Since rookie D.A. Wes Farrell, who’d been convinced that it would amount to special pleading to encourage a local judge to deny Ro’s bail application, appears helpless, homicide chief Abe Glitsky takes it on himself to put pressure on Ro, a tactic that only gives Ro’s father, newspaper publisher Cliff Curtlee, new ammunition against what his pet columnist Sheila Marrenas calls the police state Glitsky represents. Aided by Eztli, the Curtlee super-butler, Ro meanwhile continues his reign of terror, killing an investigator who’s tailing him, slashing the paintings of Janice’s distraught husband Michael, poisoning Farrell’s dog and setting his sights on the one remaining rape victim who testified in his original trial.
Lescroart’s habitual fondness for hot-button–issue thrillers (Treasure Hunt, 2010, etc.) sets an irresistible hook. But although the plot is a barn-burner, it never offers any special insight on how or whether to keep convicted criminals from going free. Not that enraptured readers will notice.