Friday, January 19, 2007

The Suspect - John Lescroart

The Suspect
John Lescroart

Mystery/Legal Thriller

Well. I’m conflicted about this one. On the one hand, there’s a solid story here about how much easier it is to prove guilt than to disprove it, populated with interesting, mostly likeable characters. On the other hand, some of these characters, capable professionals all, act like dim children far too often; and the unmasking of the real killer happens thanks to machinations that would make Scooby Doo scoff. I really wanted to like this one a lot more than I did. And, I happen to know that this author is generally rock-solid when it comes to legal thrillers.

The setup of the story is the high point. It begins with Stuart Gorman, outdoors writer and husband of 22 years, reflecting on the bewildering changes in his wife and his marriage. Their daughter has just gone off to college, and Caryn, an orthopedic surgeon, major breadwinner, and inventor of an orthopedic device that is close to being approved by the FDA, has completely tired of her life with Stuart. Over the past few years, the two have grown apart, and, that Friday, Caryn announced that she wants a divorce. The announcement shocks and angers Stuart, to the point that he feels the need to retreat to his mountain cabin for a few days.

By Monday, Stuart, still seething, is home, and the police are all over the house. According to Stuart, he arrived home early Monday morning to find his wife, dead in the hot tub. He claims he has nothing to hide and tells the investigating officer about arguing with his wife, the fact that she asked for a divorce, and spending the weekend out of town. Of course, the police are going to look at the inheriting husband first, especially when that husband is going to inherit millions. After much urging by friends, Stuart retains defense attorney, Gina Roake.

Gina is still dealing with the death of her fiancé, but is ready to get back to the law. Stuart’s case is big, and could be just what Gina needs, both personally and professionally. And this, sadly, is where things start to unravel. Gina, a longtime defense attorney and partner in her own law firm, almost instantly allows her personal feelings to color her dealings with Stuart. She swings from incredibly angry at the thought that Stuart might be lying to her (not that he might have killed someone, but that he’s lying about it) to feeling attracted to him. For his part, Stuart squanders the early sympathy readers might feel for a regular guy who’s had life’s rug yanked out from under him by professing complete bewilderment that the police might suspect him. The underlying plot is solid, but the characters’ choices make it difficult to fully invest in them. This one is a bit of a misstep from a generally fine author.

Rating: 7
January 2007
ISBN# 0-525-94998-4 (hardcover)


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