THE KEEPER is not a legal thriller. I don’t believe, if memory serves, there is a single courtroom scene on any page. That is a neat trick, considering it is full to the brim of defense attorneys (the venerable Dismas Hardy) and district attorneys (Wes Farrell and an entire team of assistants), not to mention police, ex- (Abe Glitsky) and otherwise, and a defendant (Hal Chase) who is in jail and may or (more likely) may not be innocent. John Lescroart's latest offering is a pure mystery, evenly divided between police procedure and private investigation, and wonderful from beginning to end.
Chase is a deputy sheriff assigned to duty at the San Francisco County Jail. When Chase’s wife, Katie, goes missing from their home on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, leaving her very young children unattended, suspicion almost immediately falls upon Chase, and not without reason. The couple has been having financial problems; the now-missing Katie had been in counseling; and both husband and wife had huge life insurance policies that named the surviving spouse as beneficiary. Chase, seeing which way the wind is blowing, lawyers up with Hardy. This is somewhat ironic, given that Katie had been seeing Hardy’s marriage counselor wife for some time. When it is revealed that Katie and Chase had been having extramarital affairs, it appears that Chase had at least two more motives to murder his wife.
"Lescroart brings his 'A' game to THE KEEPER, deftly leading the reader through a plot that begins simply but becomes more complex as things progress."
Given that his usual investigator is away on an extended trip, Hardy retains Glitsky to start turning over evidentiary rocks in the hope of uncovering another suspect. Glitsky, who recently has been somewhat involuntarily retired from his job as a homicide detective, does not lack for suspects, but there is a problem: none of them are anywhere near as good as Chase. In due course, Chase is indicted and finds himself incarcerated in the very jail where he used to work. There is a problem there, though, and it starts at the top with County Sheriff and works its way down. Prisoner deaths and overdoses are occurring all too frequently, and when an investigation into the death of an inmate is connected to Chase’s previous guard duties, Glitsky wonders if perhaps someone at the jail may have had a motive to kill Katie as well.
Glitsky’s investigation results in a rare and uneasy alliance between Hardy and Farrell. Two more deaths --- one tragic, one otherwise --- seem to put the two teams on the right track, and it appears that justice, however rough and incomplete, is done. That is, until a single and simple fact is revealed that upsets every supposition and conclusion that has been made in the case. Doubting himself and his ability to do the job he loves so much, Glitsky must bring every bit of his skill and talent to bear in order to ensure that a killer is brought to trial after avoiding charges for much too long.
Lescroart brings his “A” game to THE KEEPER, deftly leading the reader through a plot that begins simply but becomes more complex as things progress. Mystery aficionados may guess the identity of the doer (or doers) before story’s end, but, as is true with any visit to the streets of San Francisco, the journey is as interesting and enjoyable as the destination, if not more so. This one is a delight for fans and newcomers alike.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 16, 2014