Defense attorney Dismas Hardy’s long streak of getting along with everyone on both sides of the courtroom ends with a whimper when his friend Wes Farrell loses his campaign for re-election as district attorney of San Francisco to a rising star who wastes no time changing the rules.
Trouble begins quietly enough, with the sudden, unprecedented absence of Hardy’s secretary, Phyllis McGowan, from the office. When she returns a few days later, she assures Hardy (Poison, 2018, etc.) that everything’s fine. But her arrest as accessory to the murder of thief/extortionist/pimp Hector Valdez says different. It turns out that (1) Phyllis has a younger brother, Adam, she’s never mentioned (small wonder, since until six weeks ago he was doing time for armed robbery); (2) she’s been serving as one of the conductors on a modern-day Underground Railroad that helps shelter undocumented people from U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement; and (3) Celia Montoya, one of the most recent clients she sheltered from both Hector and the feds, has been arrested for killing Hector. Hardy could have sprung Phyllis from jail in an hour while Farrell was in the office, but new D.A. Ron Jameson, stung by Hardy’s support of Farrell, is determined to give him a hard time at every turn, and it isn’t long before Hardy, announcing, “I want him stopped,” is returning his salvos in kind. It would be bad enough if Jameson were only hard-nosed and hostile, but he’s hiding a secret that would be death to his political aspirations: Both he and his wife, Kate, have committed murder. Since Hardy is cherishing some long-standing secrets of his own, the story becomes a race to see which of them can pry the other’s skeletons out of the closet first in order to pre-emptively neutralize any counterattack.
Lescroart plots so cleverly that he has you believing his split-level thriller is really a single foreshortened novel. The perfect read for those who agree that “it’s only trouble if somebody’s shooting at you.”