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The Hearing

Reviewed: May 21, 2004
By: John Lescroart
Publisher: Signet Books
528 pages, $10.99

This is the fourth novel in the Dismas Hardy series that I have enjoyed, but only the first that I have read. I've experienced the others through the excellent medium of the audiobook and have found that I really enjoy those versions. I came upon this one while in need of something to travel with and, to my delight, it was equally as enjoyable.

Dismas, who is named for the good thief in the Easter story, is a lawyer in San Francisco. He is a recovering alcoholic who has a family and a few ghosts in his past. In previous stories we have looked at some of his personal problems and the ways in which jobs can get in the way of living. While Hardy is the central character in these stories, there is nevertheless a bit of an ensemble cast, and one of the big roles in the series is that of Abe Glitsky, homicide lieutenant with the San Francisco police. While his is usually more of a supporting role, in The Hearing he spends a fair amount of the book on centre stage, because this case involves Abe in a seriously personal way.

Abe's a widower with a few grown up kids, a man who hasn't had a woman in his life for a long time. But there was a time, years ago, when that wasn't true. Long before he was married, Abe had a fling and, much to his surprise, he eventually discovered that he had a daughter. Elaine Wagner was the daughter of a woman who had risen to the rank of state senator and, after a stint in law enforcement, Elaine seemed headed in the same direction. Now she was dead, apparently the victim of a senseless mugging that went sour.

Abe doesn't handle the case well. Too emotionally involved at the beginning, he goes for the easy suspect, the quick solution, anything to ease the guilt he feels over never having let Elaine know who he was.

The problem is that the junkie who apparently did the deed ends up being Dismas' client. hardy would probably never have taken the case had he known of the connection. He didn't want it anyway; took it as a favour to a friend and regretted it from the beginning. Cole Burgess was a piece of work, and his sister deserved better. Still, it seemed that for all his flaws, Cole might actually be innocent. It takes a lot to drive a wedge between Hardy and Glitsky, but that almost happens here. Abe gets himself into a serious mess, is placed on suspension and has a heart attack before he begins to reevaluate his original conclusions and the two begin to work together again.

This case is complicated by the fact that the DA has decided to make it the centrepiece of her bid for reelection. Hardy decides to take the Perry Mason route and use the pretrial hearing as a venue to disprove the state's case. That, along with another little side story I won't mention here, means that the road to be travelled to a solution is neither straight nor smooth. But that, of course, just makes it all the more interesting.

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