When anyone mentions literary legal thrillers, one name comes to mind: John Grisham. Even in the past few months, with the release of The Appeal, Grisham has dominated bestseller lists across the country. But there is another name in the legal thriller genre that has also seen the success of being on The New York Times bestseller list. This name is John Lescroart, an author who has published 19 novels, almost all of which have been bestsellers.
While Lescroart does not have the same level of notoriety as Grisham, his novels are arguably just as good. Lescroart has a bestselling formula with the adventures of Dismas Hardy, a lawyer and part-time sleuth who is the main character in 12 of Lescroart’s novels.
In Betrayal, Dismas tackles the appeal case of National Guard reservist Evan Scholler who has been convicted of murdering an ex-Navy SEAL, Ron Nolan. The circumstances in Evan’s case are very damning, considering his ex-girlfriend Tara had a relationship with Ron. Was it a crime of passion or has the lieutenant been framed in order to protect a conspiracy far larger than anyone, including Dismas, could have imagined?
Unlike most of the previous Dismas Hardy novels that deal with simple and unrelated homicide cases, Betrayal is topical, focusing on the social and political issues of the war in Iraq. It deals with corrupt overseas contractors and government conspiracies to protect the nation’s financial gains in Iraq. While this is an undoubtedly intriguing and relevant issue, it is also where the novel falls flat.
In the prologue we are re-introduced to Dismas, who is suffering from empty-nest syndrome with the departure of his last child to college. To fill up his spare time, Dismas takes on the Evan’s case as a favor for a judge. But for the next 300 pages we barely see our legal hero. Instead, Lescroart devotes the bulk of the novel to Evan’s story,
It does get a little tedious at times. From the very beginning the reader knows that Evan has already been convicted of murdering Ron and is appealing the verdict. As a result, it feels like some of the story dealing with the events leading up to the murder is unnecessary.
Dismas is the main reason that fans buy Lescroart’s novels. They know the character and want to read about his process of deciphering and his mostly successful trials.
Overall, Betrayal is an above-average legal thriller. It manages to make the events of the Iraq war accessible to a predominantly disinterested public while combining the current events with a well-devised legal mystery.
This reader hopes that in his next novel, Lescroart will revert back to what he does best: creating a smart and intriguing character like Dismas Hardy and then actually giving him something to do.