Readers of MojoFiction know how I feel about books in a series (see Jack Reacher and the Case of the Plug-and-Play Plot). John Lescroart hits a few of those marks. On the other hand, it’s a pretty fun mystery, and isn’t that why we read these things?
Smoke and Mirrors
Hal Chase works as a guard at the San Francisco County Jail. His wife has gone missing. She was seeing a marriage counselor on her own. Maybe the stress of marriage and family was too much and she’s run off. But the authorities are treating the case as a murder, and soon enough it will be. Maybe it’s Hal’s weak alibi, or his extramarital affair, or his possible involvement with alleged corruption at the county jail, but the evidence seems to point directly at him. But that’s what a good defense lawyer is for.
Hal hires seasoned attorney Dismas Hardy to protect his rights. Dismas hires ex-cop Abe Glitsky to dig into the mystery and find out the truth. The problem is, Abe may not be ready for private detective work. And it doesn’t take long for events to spiral out of control as he recklessly explores one dead-end after the other. Soon, more innocents are dead, everyone looks guilty of something, and no one is any closer to solving the case.
As a contemporary mystery, The Keeper does a nice job of keeping the reader in the dark, even though they might feel they figured it out, or that the author is keeping everything straightforward. Don’t worry, he’s not. There are just enough twists and turns to make Jeffery Deaver smile. It’s a smoke-and-mirrors job for sure.
What I like most is the author’s liberal use of dialogue. Nothing is more entertaining in a mystery novel than trying to pick apart a conversation between the good guy and the suspect. You wonder what’s a clue and what’s a distraction. If the author’s good enough, you won’t really know until the end. Then, when the guilty party is revealed, you find yourself recalling the past encounters, looking for those “a ha!” moments. Some mystery writers spend a little too much time rolling around in a particular character’s head (yeah, you can overdo the character development, too) or creating too many fancy plot twists. I think John Lescroart just about gets it right. Just about. This book is part of a series, after all.
Having never read a Lescroart novel before, it took me awhile to figure out who the main character was supposed to be. I think it was Abe Glitsky, because he has something of a character arc. I didn’t think Dismas Hardy fit into the story all that much and too much time was spent on his interactions with his wife (even though she does play a small part in the overall plot). Then there are the detectives, JaMorris Monroe and Abby Foley. At the beginning, the author dumps generic information about them getting along together because they are athletic. It ends up being rather pointless information. The author does this with a few other minor characters. He gives us information that doesn’t really build the character or otherwise impact the story. The main suspect, Hal Chase, is drawn with more depth, but even he didn’t seem particularly moved by tragic events.
To put it simply, I think the author wanted to get into the heart of the mystery as quickly as possible and he didn’t leave much room for an emotional connection. The characters that orbit the mystery are certainly interesting, and each one is an individual, uniquely drawn. But I thought that everything felt a little empty at the end.
On the other hand, like I said, it’s an entertaining mystery. The pace is just about perfect and the author forgoes tons of violence for a good helping of intrigue.
I just think that Maybe I was supposed to read the other 14 Dismas Hardy novels first.