A Plague of Secrets reunites John Lescroart's main series characters, Dismas Hardy, Abe Glitsky and Wyatt Hunt, along with the cast of minor characters that populates this very engaging series. The book opens with a personal tragedy that afflicts Glitsky, Hardy's best friend and the head of the San Francisco Homicide unit. Not surprisingly, the tragedy will distract Glitsky's attention from his duties in the department, and it probably goes without saying that this will not be a good thing.
Immediately thereafter, Dylan Vogler, the manager of a very popular coffee shop, is found shot to death at the back door of the shop. Vogler is wearing a backpack filled with high quality weed that he's also selling out of the coffee shop. His client list, which includes some very prominent names quickly becomes public, causing no end of embarrassment for a number of people.
Suspicion falls almost immediately upon the coffee shop's absentee owner, wealthy socialite Maya Townshend, who knew Vogler in college. Townshend claims she felt sorry for her former classmate when he finished a stint in prison and needed a job. Thus she made him the manager of her coffee shop at the rather astonishing salary of $90,000 a year.
Townshend is well connected politically and the case provides the opportunity for a number of ambitious and very scary politicians and others to advance their own careers and agendas by prosecuting her. Maya retains Dismas Hardy to defend her, and the game is on.
Last week, I reviewed one of the very early Perry Mason mysteries, and I always think of Mason and his creator, Erle Stanley Gardner, when I read one of Lescroart's Dismas Hardy books. As fond as I am of the Mason books, it always strikes me that Dismas Hardy is a defense lawyer for grown-ups. Reading Lescroart, you get an excellent impression of what a defense lawyer's life is really like and how a murder trial really works, especially with a high profile client. Not surprisingly, I suppose, it doesn't look much like a Perry Mason novel.
Lescroart's court room scenes are always enormously compelling, and once one of his cases gets to trial you know you're in for a long night because from that point on, it's always impossible to put one of these books down. Certainly, that's the case here.
As the title suggests, this is a book in which an awful lot of people have buried secrets, and Dismas Hardy is forced to uncover and understand the meaning of any number of them if he's going to have any chance at all of saving his client. Watching him attempt to do so is a great treat.