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A Plague of Secrets    by John Lescroart order for
Plague of Secrets
by John Lescroart
Order:  USA  Can
Dutton, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Considered by many one of the best of legal thriller writers out there, John Lescroart brings fans his twentieth novel, A Plague of Secrets (starring Dismas Hardy, a former police officer who is now a San Francisco defense lawyer).

The novel lives up to its name as this story is shrouded in secrets. Of course, it begins with a murder, that of affable Haight-Ashbury coffee shop manager Dylan Vogler, who is found dead in an alley, his nearby knapsack full of marijuana. It also opens on the kind of accident that every parent fears - when San Francisco Police Department homicide head Abe Glitsky (Dismas's best friend) takes his eyes off his three-year-old son for an instant, Zack is hit by a car and ends up in a coma in hospital. A guilt-ridden Abe is unable to do his job - or monitor how his officers do theirs - properly.

Darrel Bracco and his new partner, Debra Schiff, catch the case. They soon learn that Vogler beat his wife, and also supplied drugs to a long list of the city's elite - including one of Diz's colleagues and an operative working for his private detective, Wyatt Hunt. Everyone lies, from the victim's wife and fellow employees to wealthy - and well connected (she's the Mayor's niece) - Bay Beans West owner Maya Townshend. She lies about her whereabouts the time of the murder, about her relationship with the victim, and about her past - to the police and to Dismas after she hires him to represent her.

There's a second murder and, as more and more circumstantial evidence points to Maya, she's arrested. With Abe temporarily out of the loop, Debra Schiff allies with Federal prosecutor Jerry Glass. He puts together a civil case against Maya and her family, 'to trigger a forfeiture' of their property, and pressure them for information that would help the criminal case. Diz, who finds it hard to believe in his client's innocence, gets another hard knock when the Superior Court Judge assigned to try the case is his despised nemesis, Marian Braun. The fun begins.

As the trial progresses, Diz and the reader are hit with quite a few surprises, not the least of which are the true dark secret in his client's past and the identity of a mysterious Paco who was part of it. The courtroom drama gets hot and heavy when most (but not all) of the secrets are revealed. Though the author's exotic names for his characters threw me a little, I enjoyed A Plague of Secrets very much and will be seeking out his earlier novels. If you're a legal thriller fan, Diz Hardy is not to be missed.

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