THE MERCY RULE by John Lescroart


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San Francisco lawyer Dismas Hardy (A Certain Justice, 1995, etc.) is back from Lescroart’s disappointing Guilt (1997)—this time defending a potential case of euthanasia in a gripping but erratically plotted legal drama. Even though he hadn’t seen his divorced father Salvatore (illegal fish merchant “Salmon Sal”) for 15 years, Graham Russo had grown close to him once more after learning that the old man had Alzheimer’s, plus a brain tumor that would probably kill him first. So when Sal dies after a lethal cocktail of Old Crow and morphine, and the evidence points toward murder, the cops pick up Graham. Almost as quickly, however, they let him go, because politically-minded District Attorney Sharron Pratt is bent on making San Francisco a haven for mercy-killings. Graham would be home free, owing his lawyer Hardy only a few hundred, if only the state’s Attorney General shared the D.A.’s views. But Graham, an ex-ballplayer who alienated every lawyer in town when he quit a federal clerkship in a futile attempt to get his baseball career back, has enemies in the Attorney General’s office who are salivating over the chance to indict him for murder with specials (the robbery of $50,000 and Sal’s baseball card collection). Hardy’s obvious move is to plead manslaughter. But Graham, insisting he never gave that lethal injection, seems as avid to go to trial as his worst enemies. Meantime, a dozen pots bubble ominously in the background. Graham starts an affair with one of the arresting officers. Hardy struggles to locate a mysterious legatee Sal designated. A complicated civil case claims hours he should be using to prepare his defense. And so to trial, and the unguessable surprise Lescroart has left till after the verdict. Lots going on, then, though even the most patient readers may finish the book annoyed with the score of characters left undeveloped, and the way their feelings about euthanasia have been toyed with in what turns out to be a leviathan red herring.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1998
ISBN: 0-385-31658-5
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1998


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