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The Motive


The Motive

I cannot imagine anybody picking up one of John Lescroart's novels,
such as last year's THE SECOND CHAIR or the just-published THE
MOTIVE, without reading from beginning to end in one sitting and
then taking steps to obtain his backlist. He is that good.

If you are unfamiliar with Lescroart's work, permit me to take a
minute of your time to make the introduction. The majority of
Lescroart's novels are set in San Francisco, a city that appears to
be on its last legs due to a lack of adult supervision of several
decades' duration. The focus of the novels is on Dismas Hardy and,
more recently, Abe Glitsky. Like the city where they live, Hardy
and Glitsky are a study in contrasts. Hardy is a former policeman,
presently a very successful defense attorney; Glitsky is the Deputy
Chief of Inspectors of the San Francisco Police Department. Hardy
is lace curtain Irish, and not without humor, with Glitsky more
often than not being his target. Glitsky is of mixed heritage ---
his father is Jewish, his mother African-American --- with a grim
and taciturn demeanor. The two men are good friends, though their
common ground is not immediately evident. Yet their friendship
works and more often than not becomes the motivation for them to
cross the lines of their respective roles to achieve a common

This is the case with THE MOTIVE, beginning with a fire that is a
smokescreen for a double homicide. The victims are a politically
connected lobbyist who is being considered for a U.S. Cabinet
position and his beautiful, enigmatic fiancée. The mayor of
San Francisco quietly interjects herself into the investigation,
asking that Glitsky take it over. This immediately creates a
problem, as Glitsky and Dan Cuneo, the detective already assigned
to the case, have an adversarial relationship. Things become even
worse, however, when Cuneo's inverted pyramid style of
investigation --- choose a suspect, then find the evidence ---
leads him to Catherine Hanover, the daughter-in-law of one of the
victims and the former girlfriend of Dismas Hardy. When Hardy
agrees to defend Hanover, it appears that Glitsky and the mayor are
involved in a cover-up. Glitsky, however, is concerned not only
with establishing Hanover's innocence but also with discovering the
true identity of the murderer --- a concern that ultimately puts
him in grave danger.

As always, Lescroart's plotting is impeccable. The beginning and
end of THE MOTIVE are given over primarily, but not exclusively, to
investigation, with the middle of the book focused primarily, but
not entirely, on Hardy's courtroom strategies. Yet Lescroart brings
his protagonists together seamlessly, and also switches story
tracks just before one begins to get played out. Along the way
Lescroart quietly paints a picture of contemporary San Francisco, a
city of contrasts where the beauty without belies the quiet decay
within. The result is an engrossing tale that will not soon be

Lescroart continues to build an intriguing and imposing
bibliography. If you are as yet unfamiliar with his work, go to
your bookshelves and make lots of room. After reading THE MOTIVE,
you will need it.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 7, 2011

The Motive
by John Lescroart

  • Publication Date: December 27, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Signet
  • ISBN-10: 0451215729
  • ISBN-13: 9780451215727