Fatal by John Lescroart (Atria Books, 2017) is a stand-alone novel with a mystery woven into and around its study of the effects of infidelity on two apparently happy couples. Lescroart has written 19 legal thrillers featuring Dismas Hardy, a former cop turned part-time bartender and full-time attorney, and his best friend, Abe Glitsky, a Homicide cop in San Francisco, as well as four mysteries/thrillers about private investigator Wyatt Hunt in San Francisco. Hardy, Glitsky, and their associates appear briefly in the Hunt books.
In this departure from the world of Hardy and Glitsky, Kate Jameson becomes obsessed with a married man she meets at the home of her husband’s law firm partner. She confesses her irrational thoughts to her best friend Beth Tully and assures Beth she won’t act on them but soon thereafter she arranges a private meeting with him. One brief encounter resolves her fixation with the man and she is ready to move on, but he has other ideas. Six months later his body is found on a local beach, and Homicide Detective Beth Tully is assigned the task of determining who killed him. At first there are no suspects, then far too many.
Lescroart is one of my favorite authors and this is the best book he’s released in a few years. He tells complicated stories in clear, down-to-earth language. His plots unfold unhurriedly while maintaining momentum. I can’t think of another author who conveys the complexities and contradictions of long-term human relationships better than he does. He has claimed San Francisco and its legal and law enforcement community for his own; even in a stand-alone book like this many of his characters are lawyers and police detectives and the setting is still San Francisco with its fog, tourist attractions, and cultural diversity. I would have recognized this book as his even without his name on it.
This is another story that departs from a straightforward chronological narrative, something I used to take for granted. While it does not jump back and forth in time as has become common, the book is organized into three sections: one that covers a few days in May, one that covers a few days in the following November, and the final section a few days at the end of November. Uncovering what happened in the months intervening between May and November becomes critical to identifying the murderer. A couple of subplots periodically divert the reader’s attention from the homicide investigation, which serves to intensify the suspense.
Booklist starred review.
· Hardcover: 320 pages
· Publisher: Atria Books; 1st edition (January 24, 2017)
· Language: English
· ISBN-10: 1501115677
· ISBN-13: 978-1501115677
Aubrey Hamilton © 2017
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal IT projects by day and reads mysteries at night.