The Hunt Club

Reviewed: January 22, 2008
By: John Lescroart
Publisher: Signet Books
512 pages, $13.50

I was almost disappointed when the first 50 pages of The Hunt Club ended. That portion of the book, a prologue of sorts to the actual story, had been told in an engaging first person narrative. In it Wyatt Hunt told is how he used to be an employee of San Francisco’s child protection services agency and walked us through 10 years worth of pivotal incidents in that career, during which the agency moved further and further from its purpose and Hunt didn’t move with it.

The inevitable consequence of that dislocation was that he got himself fired for doing his job properly and had to find another line of work. This is where Hunt’s story becomes part of the Venn diagram of Lescroart’s San Francisco, intersecting with his tales of Dismas Hardy and Abe Glitsky. It is Hardy who gives Hunt a push towards his next career, which is really the subject of the rest of the book.

Wyatt is the principal of The Hunt Club, a small investigative agency which does a lot of work for Hardy’s law firm, hence the connection, but which has a rather elastic membership, depending on the complexity of the case and the needs of the investigation.

One of the purposes of the prologue was to introduce us to some of the key members of the club, people Wyatt had met in the course of his career as a civil servant, people who are as convinced as he is that it is necessary to do the right thing most of the time, and that doing so might require one to bend the occasional rule.

It is because of this larger membership, and the need to follow some of their activities and peek inside their heads, that the narrative changes to third person. This does help to advance the story and build our understanding of the cast, but I found I did miss Wyatt’s voice after that.

The case in question doesn’t start with the Hunt Club, but with the police investigation of an apparent murder/suicide that doesn’t quite look right to Hunt alumnus Inspector Devin Juhle.

Wyatt becomes involved when the investigation touches the life of television reporter/lawyer Andrea Parisi, whose business card was found in the murdered woman’s effects. He had Parisi meet and slowly became more than just friends, so when she disappears Wyatt finds he has personal as well as professional reasons for wanting to find her.

The book proceeds with the two investigations running in tandem, and there is sometimes a conflict between Devin’s and Wyatt’s agendas which adds a bit of tension to the plot. There were a few hints as to how the thing would be solved, but I have to admit that the identity of the actual villain caught me off guard when that person (notice how carefully I’m avoiding a spoiler) stepped out of the shadows.

The Hunt Club was an engaging mystery with an interesting cast of characters. It looks like Lescroart has the potential for another first rate series on his hands.