San Francisco lawyer Dismas Hardy plays second fiddle to his junior partner in the case of the preppy accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend and their drama coach.
For Amy Wu, the question isn’t whether Andrew Bartlett, 17, shot Laura Wright, 16, and Michael Mooney, the teacher who was rehearsing the two of them at his apartment. The mountain of evidence against Andrew, from the gun he borrowed from his wealthy stepfather and showed off in school before it vanished just after the murders to the eyewitnesses who put him at the scene, make Amy certain that her client pulled the trigger. What she’s fighting for is not his exoneration but the hope that he’ll be tried as a minor, facing no more than eight years in juvie. In order to be declared a minor, however, Andrew has to admit to the crime, and that’s exactly what he won’t do, even after he assures her that he will. The resulting legal gymnastics keep Amy on her toes, antagonize both the prosecutor trying the case and the judge hearing it, and prepare for some nifty surprises. When the most traumatic of them leaves Andrew stranded in the Youth Guidance Center instead of awaiting trial in his parents’ home, Hardy, weary of his recent round of cynical deals on behalf of obviously guilty clients, anoints himself second chair to Amy and girds for battle. The biggest battle may be with Andrew, since “he’d never had a client who was less inherently credible.” But even as the noose tightens, the bulletins about the Executioner, the methodical serial killer who’s terrorizing the city, go a long way toward sucking the mystery out of Dis’s latest case.
What remains, as usual with Lescroart (The First Law, 2002, etc.), is a sociological take on the justice system—every motive is carefully nuanced, every player rooted in social reality—excelled only by Scott Turow.