Review

A Plague of Secrets

by John Lescroart

A PLAGUE OF SECRETS, John Lescroart’s 20th published work,
reads more like it was written by an inspired young bull, perhaps
two or three books into a new career and still so full of ideas and
talent that his story threatens to burst the binding of the
cover.

Lescroart has done much in the past with his two primary
characters, Abe Glitsky and Dismas Hardy. Glitsky, the veteran
homicide lieutenant, and Hardy, the venerable defense attorney,
have been an odd, though believable, pairing of friends. Set
against the backdrop of his beloved San Francisco and its
frequently quirky, occasionally weird culture, Lescroart has
created a series of what might be called legal or courtroom
thrillers shot through with the workings of a methodical police
procedural, utilizing the best elements of both.

A PLAGUE OF SECRETS begins with two momentous events. The first
is an accident that leaves Glitsky’s three-year-old son
severely injured. The circumstances of the incident haunt Glitsky
throughout the book, leaving him personally and professionally
functioning on a single cylinder, if at all. The second is a murder
that will ripple and resonate throughout San Francisco’s
social and political culture. Dylan Vogler is the manager of Bay
Beans West, a wildly popular independent coffee shop located in the
notorious Haight-Ashbury district. When Vogler is discovered shot
to death in an alley behind the establishment, with a knapsack full
of carefully processed marijuana, it is clear that he has been
dealing much more than caffeine.

Maya Townshend, the fabulously wealthy and politically connected
owner of the store, finds herself under the scrutiny of the police
and retains Hardy as counsel, if for no other reason than to
provide her with legal support during the inevitable question and
answer sessions. But when another of Townshend’s
acquaintances is also brutally murdered, the police, in what
perhaps appears to be an unfortunate rush to judgment, bring their
suspicions to an arguably over-eager district attorney who sees
multiple opportunities to be had in Townshend’s prosecution.
Without Glitsky’s oversight, the progress of the case spins
out of control, and Townshend finds herself arrested and charged
with both murders. Hardy must contend not only with the
prosecutors, but also with Townshend, who harbors a secret from her
past that she will not reveal to Hardy.

When it is learned that Vogler may well have been blackmailing
Townshend, it causes Hardy to privately doubt his client’s
innocence. Hardy’s difficulties are further compounded by the
judge presiding over the trial, a somewhat incompetent jurist who
is barely able to conceal her outright dislike of Hardy. Still, the
prosecution’s case is weak, and when a number of unexpected
sources provide Hardy with new information, he is able to present
an explosive revelation that might exonerate his client but may
also leave others in terrible danger.

Lescroart wrestles with complex issues in A PLAGUE OF SECRETS,
including the decriminalization of marijuana, the behavior of the
homeless, due process under federal law, and seizure of assets,
among others. His characters, particularly Townshend, are also
multi-faceted. Townshend’s misrepresentations to the police,
not to mention to her own attorney, are somewhat understandable in
hindsight, but ultimately constitute the major elements leading to
her arrest and trial. Glitsky attempts to make amends for the
errors that occurred on his watch, in a manner that may or may not
cause him difficulty later. What results makes A PLAGUE OF SECRETS
a riveting work that will lead readers, once they start the book,
to block out sufficient time to finish it in one sitting.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 18, 2011

A Plague of Secrets
by John Lescroart

  • Publication Date: June 30, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0525950923
  • ISBN-13: 9780525950929