No one should ever accuse John Lescroart of writing the same book over and over. He is quickly closing in on two-dozen volumes, and with (almost) nary a misstep, he continues to either move his primary characters forward or explore their lives more deeply, or both. THE HUNTER, as one who is acquainted with Lescroart might surmise from the title, concerns itself with Wyatt Hunt, who runs a boutique private investigation agency in San Francisco. This is his deepest book to date and arguably his best.
"This is [Lescroart's] deepest book to date and arguably his best."
Lescroart takes Hunt outside the familiar comfort zone of his San Francisco environs, sending him to such places as Indiana and Mexico on behalf of one of the most interesting clients he has represented thus far: himself. The case begins when Hunt receives an anonymous and cryptic text message --- “How did your mother die?” --- which sends him reeling. He was raised by loving adoptive parents who he understandably and properly considered to be his own, and did not give too much conscious thought to his biological background. The text and subsequent messages he receives bring these considerations to the forefront. Hunt discovers that his biological mother had been murdered in San Francisco some three decades before. Interestingly enough, his biological father had been tried twice for the homicide, with the jury being unable to reach a verdict on both occasions.
Hunt begins an almost obsessive search of discovering what happened to his mother and bringing her killer to justice, as well as attempting to ascertain the whereabouts and fate of his father. His path is fraught with difficulty, given the length of time that has passed since his mother’s murder, and leads him to totally unexpected places --- from a quiet church on San Francisco’s western edge to a dusty village south of the United States border. He additionally meets some resistance from the San Francisco Police Department. While his mother’s file is still technically open, the official conclusion is that Hunt’s father killed her. Yet there are still some who believe that his father is innocent, and, using a combination of cutting-edge technology and old-fashioned file drawer diving, Hunt is determined to discover the truth about everything. All the while, though, he is convinced that the key to figuring out the identity of his mother’s killer ultimately will be uncovered when, and if, he learns who has been sending him the anonymous texts that reveal so little yet seem so knowledgeable.
Hunt ultimately finds out that his mother’s death is tied to one of the most notorious mass murders in United States history, and that there are those who would prefer the past stay buried with the victims of that massacre. As Hunt moves ever closer to learning who took his mother’s life, what he doesn’t suspect is that he is putting his co-workers --- and someone he loves --- in mortal danger. His solid detective work and dogged determination to put his mother’s death to rest leads to a conclusion that is by turns frightening and chilling.
THE HUNTER presents a side of Wyatt Hunt that readers have not seen before and are unlikely to see again. There is a vulnerable element to his persona that is both surprising and touching. And while it is unlikely to manifest itself in future Hunt stories, the truths and secrets that are revealed here will almost certainly resonate for years to come in the series.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 6, 2012