John Lescroart is officially credited with writing two series (actually four) of legal and crime fiction. Dismas Hardy and Abe Glitsky. But in the world of the reader,what he has really done is write crime and legal novels that tell wonderful stories featuring San Francisco as a setting and have many of the same characters. Sometimes those characters are just background characters and some times they are the main protagonist or a minor protagonist from one book to the next. It’s like a chronicle of a group of acquaintances and friends over a lifetime.
If you are a fan of series fiction, this is indeed a treat as it manages to keep the stories fresh while still continuing the tails of the characters you know and love. If you aren’t a series fiction fan, then you only get great stories and marvelous books. That’s not such a bad thing.
The Hunter, then is either the fourth Abe Glitsky novel or the third in the Wyatt Hunt series, which was established in 2005 with the first book, The Hunt Club. The Hunter opens with Wyatt trying to recruit his best friend, San Francisco detective, Devin Juhle for Hunts “Hunt Club” , a thriving detective agency. Juhle works for the chief of homicide, Abe Glitsky. Hunt has just broken up with Gina Roake, a San Francisco defense attorney, who first (and last) appeared in 2007s The Suspect as the main protagonist.
Juhle turns him down. Later, at a meeting with a client, a wealthy group of women whom Hunt has been hired to vet applicants for admission to their exclusive ladies club, Hunt receives an anonymous text message.The message says, “How did your mother die?” Hunt was adopted at a young age, and really can’t answer that question. He tries to call the texter back, but get’s no voice mail, no answer and comes to the conclusion that the texter used a disposable phone.
But this question leads Hunt to wonder just how, and for that matter who his real parents were. After further provocative texts messages from the same person Hunt, with the aid of his agency and Juhle, sets out to answer this question. It leads him to Catholic Charities who were the adoption agency where he eventually finds out that his mother was murdered and his father was suspected, tried twice, and twice acquitted by a hung jury.
He also comes to possess a letter from his father, who had given him up for adoption, stating that he did not kill his mother, and had to give him up so he’d have a chance at a better life. Hunt sets out to investigate the decades old murder. and to find his father. The twists and turns, dead ends and strands of hope lead from San Francisco’s hippie havens, to the tombs of the Catholic church and along the way, Hunt and his employees, again with the help of Juhle, follow clues that lead from Indiana to Jim Jones religious killing ground of Jones Town, to the mountains of Mexico. Eventually, new murders ate uncovered, or occur. One to a Hunt Club investigator.
Lescroart is such a successful story teller that he effortlessly keeps many ‘balls’ in the air. There is the encyclopedic knowledge of San Francisco and it’s many historically significant eras and it architecture, restaurants and quaint commercial centers and distinct culture which are always a background and always reveal something new and enjoyable. Then there is his ability to craft a faultless mystery and the hunt for clues. Then, his characters are full blown realistic and individually drawn so well that you’d love to spend a meal with the lot of them in conversation. And for the coup de grace, he always finds some off the beaten path point of interest to add yet another layer to the story. In this instance, it is a small village in Mexico, famous for it’s weaving. This avoids the obvious cliché of the drug lords and drug battles that the media covers on a daily basis leading to mexico as a whole being painted as a lawless crime zone no tourist would want to visit. Teotitlán del Valle, is indeed a real place and the village is still famous for their hand woven rugs and textiles and would be a beautiful place to visit.. Lescroart paints this village in such a way that when he stops writing NY Times Best Sellers, will guarantee him a career as a tour guide or travel writer. perhaps an ambassador.
He also, with his trade mark research employed to not only use a subject, but educate the reader, exposes the evolving adoption process in California and other environs. He does the same thing in exploring the damage to the human psyche when the mind and the soul are exposed to more than it can handle and the process and symptoms leading to what the general public refer to a nervous breakdown.
Lescroart wins on all levels. And none of the intricate detail drag on the pace, or the plot. Like the master he is, it’s just enough. And it is grand mystery writing.
Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved
Article first published as Book Review: The Hunter by John Lescroart on Blogcritics.