John Lescroart. The Ophelia Cut. Atria Paperback/Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2013.
Courtroom drama fans: For those who follow Lescroart's dramatic novels, the familiar characters are back ― Dismas Hardy, Moses Maguire, Abe Glitsky, Gina Roake, and company ― and they are as engaging as ever. A few allusions to a highly secret prior incident involving the crew are intriguingly tossed out but never explained (they took place in a previous book but for the life of me I can't figure out which one, possibly Lescroart's 2009 A Plague of Secrets). Here, Hardy takes on his most difficult legal case ever. Backroom politics in San Francisco and questionable ethics play into it, not unusual in Hardy's world. For the reader, it's a credible, realistic world.
Without giving away the surprises ― Moses' gorgeous daughter Brittany is the catalyst for a murder of far-reaching consequences. The police department, the district attorney's office, and several families are all hit by the fallout, not to mention jeopardizing a man in the federal witness protection program. Which of several possible motives is the strongest for committing the crime? How representative of her generation is Brittany? Lescroart's plots usually reflect issues in today's news. No trial detail escapes Hardy's attention but the outcome for his client looks hopeless. He keeps us guessing until the shock ending. My only quibble is the rather nebulous, unconvincing epilogue.
Word: gravamen (375)
Glitsky gets reprimanded:
"Lieutenant." Her repetition of his rank struck him as ominous. As recently as this morning, he had rarely been anything but Abe. She went on. "I really don't feel that now is the appropriate time to air this matter completely. In the past several hours, I have learned several allegations ― unsubstantiated, to be sure, but bothersome nonetheless ― regarding your relationships with Mr. Hardy, Mr. Farrell, and some other members of their law firm, which, I must say in a police officer, are at best unusual. I was hoping that tomorrow you and I could set aside a little time to discuss these matters privately and determine to what extent you will still have my confidence as a department head. Am I making myself clear?" (215)
Hardy tries alternate theories on his investigator:
"Maybe he stole one of his friend's girlfriends. Maybe he sold dope on the side and stiffed his supplier. Maybe he had a jealous gay lover. Maybe he ran over some crazy lady's cat. The dude was a rapist. He had roofies, right? So there were probably other victims. What about if one of them killed him? Did he have any family?"... Hardy heard a heavy breath over the line. "Am I getting desperate?" he asked."Sounds a little like it to me.""Can you give me twenty hours?""I'll give you all the time you want. But I feel like I'm wasting your money, and I hate that.""If that feeling gets too bad, you don't have to take the money.""Good one, Diz.""I know," Hardy said. "I'm a laugh riot." (273)
Sean Slater. Snakes and Ladders. London, UK: Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2012.
First reaction: the second book about homicide detective Jacob Striker is more polished than the first. Second reaction: a series of small inconsistencies (Valium readily available over the counter?) and improbable climaxes became irritating. The cryptic thoughts of the supposed perpetrator, a wacko who calls himself The Adder, are interspersed throughout the story and I began to wonder if some authors today are simply trying to out-psycho each other.
The discovery of a murder or two, and subsequent investigations, take a turn into a different underlying crime of unimaginable scale. Current news topics, such as privacy laws and identity theft, come into play. Slater sets a good pace here and I was finding it a good read. For about two-thirds of the book. Winding up in slightly clumsy melodrama, it never explains why Striker himself had become a target. His enigmatic relationship with cop-partner Felicia remains unresolved. The third book in the series (The Guilty) has been published and Slater has plans for at least three more.
Typical Jacob and Felicia sparring:
She gave him an uncertain look, like she wasn't sure which way to take the conversation. In the end, she kept quiet. The passenger window was still fogged up, so she took a moment to power the window down and up. When it remained fogged, she wiped away the condensation with her hand. Afterwards, she turned in her seat and met his stare once more. She spoke softly."Maybe you should see Larisa one more time."Striker groaned. "Oh Jesus, not you, too. Leave it be, Feleesh.""I'm just saying―""You're always just saying something. Serious. Just let it go for once, will ya? Let this one ride."Felicia's eyes narrowed at the comment, and for a moment she looked ready for a fight. She tucked her long dark hair back over her ear and her mouth opened like she was ready to say more.Striker looked away from her. He was in no mood for small talk or bullshit. And in even less of a mood for arguing. (48-49)
Psycho's secret agenda:
The DVD began playing and the screen came to life.
On it was the woman cop. Standing in the laneway. Watching the big detective move slowly up the stairs. She was beautiful ‒ the Adder could see that in his analytical, separated way ‒ with her long brown hair draping down the caramel skin of her neck. She was in her prime, no doubt, bursting with beauty and energy and radiance. Like a star going supernova.The Adder watched her, standing there, completely unaware of the hidden threat. Then the bullets came. (315)