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Betrayal    by John Lescroart order for
by John Lescroart
Order:  USA  Can
Dutton, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

2nd Lieutenant Evan Scholler of San Bruno, California, finds himself and his National Guard unit uncomfortably reassigned from Kuwait to Baghdad, apparently to lend some sort of vaguely defined logistical support to the Allstrong Company, a civilian contractor firm working alongside the coalition forces and the provisional government of Iraq. Ostensibly involved in rebuilding the Iraqi infrastructure in the aftermath of the U.S. army's invasion (and removal of Saddam Hussein), the Allstrong people - at least as Scholler sees it - seem at times to be operating in the murky gray areas of the rules, which only reinforces Scholler discomfort.

Then, when one of Allstrong's employees, Ron Nolan, goes well beyond the rules (especially the rules of engagement with respect to encounters with Iraqi nationals), Scholler winds up seriously injured; moreover, with nearly all of his unit wiped out because of Nolan's actions, Scholler is medically evacuated to the States and is left to wonder what the hell went wrong in Iraq.

With his personal life in a mess (since Scholler's former girlfriend Tara Wheatley had inexplicably ended their relationship), and with medical issues still bothering him (because of his traumatic head injury and the associated memory problems), Scholler doesn't seem to have much going for him; but at least he has returned to his former job as a policeman in the Bay Area.

Then, however, Ron Nolan - also back in the Bay Area after having quickly left Iraq to avoid further problems - intrudes upon and further complicates Scholler's life. Not only has Nolan ingratiated himself romantically with Tara, but - as Scholler soon discovers - Nolan also may have been involved in some way in a number of incidents in the Bay Area that have added up to the deaths of one former Allstrong employee, three thugs in San Francisco's Mission District, and a husband and wife (Iraqi immigrants and owners of a convenience store).

But when Scholler improperly uses his position as police officer and begins looking into Nolan's involvement with Tara and the killings, everything suddenly backfires on him as he becomes entangled in a complicated web of deceit and betrayal. And then Scholler finds himself facing criminal charges, conviction, and imprisonment. Now, perhaps only the lawyers will be able to sort out what really happened. The truth, though, as the lawyers and Scholler will eventually realize, may be difficult to discover, and more significantly, it may be even more difficult to accept.

As a fascinating examination of the ironies and paradoxes of the American justice system, and as a penetrating look at 'the smiling face of evil' that too often hides behind the iconic facades of patriotism and loyalty, Betrayal stands out as one of John Lescroart's most powerful novels. This is the 17th novel in Lescroart's impressive body of work, and it promises to be another phenomenally successful best-seller. Tension-filled, provocative, and full of surprises, Betrayal is a top-notch thriller that everyone will definitely want to add to their must-read lists. Don't miss it!

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