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The Rule of Law: A Dismas Hardy Novel

Review

The Rule of Law: A Dismas Hardy Novel

THE RULE OF LAW might be considered a love letter from John Lescroart to loyal fans of his Dismas Hardy novels. What he does here is tie up a few loose ends left over from earlier installments, most particularly THE FIRST LAW --- from way, way back in 2003 --- to the more recent FATAL. Since Lescroart does frequently reference events in those works, it is helpful, though not totally necessary, to have read the source material. That said, this is a pivotal work in the series, setting up what may well be a new direction for the San Francisco defense attorney, his friend Abe Glitzky, and the always interesting supporting cast.

The book opens with an intriguing setup. District Attorney Wes Farrell has been defeated in his bid for a third term by Ron Jameson, who in FATAL murdered the man who had slept with his wife, pinned the blame on someone else and got away with it all. One of Jameson’s first official acts is to arrest Phyllis McGowan, Dismas’ longtime office secretary. Jameson is charging Phyllis as an accessory to the murder of Hector Valdez, a “coyote” who had been smuggling women into the United States from El Salvador and Mexico and using them as sex slaves. Phyllis’ brother has just been released from prison after serving 25 years for armed robbery and attempted murder, and seems to have been involved in Valdez’s killing as well, which most certainly complicates matters.

"There’s no real running or fisticuffs, yet it’s almost impossible to stop reading once one starts. Such is the power of Lescroart’s workmanlike prose, which never gets in the way of his storytelling."

Jameson’s actions appear to be a shot across the bow at Dismas, who is bringing his friend Farrell into the firm. Dismas does not suffer attacks lightly and fires back with some legal actions of his own. The results are explosive. Jameson begins looking into a number of apparent coincidences surrounding the Dockside Massacre (as told in THE FIRST LAW), which took place almost two decades before and touched on both Dismas and Abe, even though it seemed that neither man was there. Dismas, aided by Abe and a couple of police investigators who have been adversely impacted by the changes at the D.A.’s office, unofficially begins to investigate the supposedly closed case of the murder of Peter Ash --- the facts of which were laid out in FATAL --- to see if the rumors that had quietly circulated regarding Jameson’s involvement had some basis in fact.

There are not a lot of fireworks in THE RULE OF LAW, which relies instead on a great deal of smart investigative procedure as the two sides quietly play Screw Your Neighbor, using the city of San Francisco as a playing board. There’s no real running or fisticuffs, yet it’s almost impossible to stop reading once one starts. Such is the power of Lescroart’s workmanlike prose, which never gets in the way of his storytelling.

Things are somewhat different at the conclusion than they were at the beginning. There are numerous twists and turns throughout the book, chief among them near the end, when an unexpected round of justice is delivered from an ironic source. Although he is not getting any younger, Dismas remains believably active and mentally sharp (just like his creator). As a result, this long-running series --- in which the characters actually (somewhat) age --- hopefully will have miles of courtroom aisles to traverse if THE RULE OF LAW is any indication.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 25, 2019

The Rule of Law: A Dismas Hardy Novel
by John Lescroart

  • Publication Date: January 22, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • ISBN-10: 1501115731
  • ISBN-13: 9781501115738