John Lescroart created a tough, dramatic crime series with attorney Dismas Hardy and police investigator Abe Glitsky, combining the best of police procedural with legal thriller. Three years ago, though, he stepped "off series," so the February 2008 release of BETRAYAL, promised as a Dismas-and-Abe return (number 12!), made a huge splash.
I just got around to reading this one, and I'm still mulling over what Lescroart did. It's not as if I didn't have some warning: We were in California in January '07 for one of his readings at M is for Mystery in San Matteo, and reported the following:
As a result, he's 75 percent done with the next book already, which opens in Iraq. The research (he's not actually going there) has involved people freshly returned, and Lescroart says it's been "pretty disturbing ... the people that come back are a lot more emotional than we realize or read about in the newspaper."
Well, BETRAYAL is in fact deeply disturbing. For all the heroism and idealism that's been invested in enforcing a regime change in Iraq, Lescroart's novel suggests and equal amount of greed, meanness, and downright evil, thriving in the high-money stakes of controlling, occupying, and rebuilding the nation.
The California team doesn't go out of the country. Instead, the betrayals and threats of a notorious set of psychopaths -- the kind that, unfortunately, get hired sometimes as mercenaries -- invade the professional and then private lives of Dismas and Abe. Even the FBI isn't on their side when things get tough.
It's not unusual for a book well along in a successful series to change viewpoint and construction, and that's happened in BETRAYAL. Rather than narrate the twin lives of Dis and his law-enforcement colleague, as he had earlier, the new frame that Lescroart adopts is to write a military thriller and frame it with his series characters around the edges. A National Guard reservist and an ex-Navy SEAL wrestle for the attention of a beautiful -- and war-opposing -- teacher. Their competition flashes from a fire-war in Iraq to serial murder in California. And Dismas gets in the way, risking his family in the process.
I found the plot intense and tight, the level of threat pounding and insistent, the Iraq sequences and exploration of traumatic brain injury compelling. Moreover, I found myself thinking more about the superstructure of a series, and wondering where Lescroart's hunger for character-driven plot will take him next.
For reference, here's the list of the books so far:
Dismas Hardy (featured protagonist)
* Dead Irish (1989)
* The Vig (1990)
* Hard Evidence (1993)
* The 13th Juror (1994)
* The Mercy Rule (1998)
* Nothing But the Truth (1999)
* The First Law (2003)
* The Motive (2004)
* The Second Chair (2004)
* Betrayal (2007)
Abe Glitsky (featured protagonist)
* A Certain Justice (1995)
* Guilt (1996)
* The Hearing (1999)
* The Oath (2002)
* The Hunt Club (2005)
* The Suspect (2007)