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The Rule of Law by John Lescroart

Published by Atria Books on January 22, 2019

The new Dismas Hardy novel begins with an avalanche of change. Ron Jameson, who got away with murder, has protected himself by getting elevated to a position of power that allows him to deflect suspicions. Jameson has been elected District Attorney, defeating Hardy’s friend and former law partner, Wes Farrell. Hardy invites Farrell back into the firm, along with Gina Roake, who quit the practice to write novels, only to find that writing novels doesn’t pay the bills as easily as practicing law. Hardy’s friend Abe Glitsky retired from his job as an investigator in the DA’s office when Farrell was defeated. Glitsky’s wife Treya, who had been Farrell’s secretary, also retired. Now that Hardy has two new partners, he’s hoping he won’t need to work as many hours.

Things seem to be going well until Hardy’s loyal secretary, Phyllis McGowan, mysteriously vanishes for a couple of days. Hardy noses around and discovers that her brother was recently released from prison. A few days later, things seem back to normal until some goons from the police department show up with an arrest warrant and haul Phyllis off to jail. Hardy, naturally, represents her.

Jameson charges Phyllis with the rare crime of being an accessory after the fact — in this case, an accessory to murder. The alleged murderer is Celia Montoya and the victim is Hector Valdez, who was allegedly trafficking women. Phyllis’ brother was allegedly a witness to the murder and is the reason for Phyllis’ arrest. Hardy suspects she’s in jail because she works for the firm that now employs Farrell, the DA who lost his election to Jameson. Professional courtesies, like allowing Hardy to surrender Phyllis voluntarily, have gone out the window.

Jameson got elected as a “tough on crime” candidate, which is the first sign that he’s a jerk. I mean, is anyone in favor of crime? Of course not. “Tough on crime” always means “tough on the Constitution.”

When Hardy and Jameson go to war, one of Jameson’s investigators decides to reinvestigate the Dockside Massacres. Series fans will know why Hardy and his friends don’t want to draw attention to that particular episode, which unfolds in three novels (The First Law, The Second Chair, and The Motive) and is revisited in The Ophelia Cut. New readers might want to check out The Ophelia Cut before reading The Rule of Law. It isn’t essential to do so, but The Ophelia Cut is one of the best entries in the series, so it won’t be wasted time.

In some Dismas Hardy novels, including this one, John Lescroart gives the reader information right away that Hardy only learns or suspects later in the story. In this case, the reader knows from page one that Jameson committed murder, so this isn’t a whodunit. The plot instead focuses on the efforts of Hardy, Glitsky, and the rest of the team to prove Jameson’s guilt while exonerating (more or less) Phyllis and worrying about their exposure in the Dockside Massacres.

The case is timely in that it involves San Francisco’s status as a sanctuary city and the political aspirations of people (like Jameson) who want to want to make headlines by being either for or against local resistance to the hardball tactics of ICE. Jameson is happy to play both sides of the debate as long as he gets headlines. The Rule of Law takes on the Trump administration’s immoral and heavy-handed approach to immigration enforcement — an approach that discourages immigrants from reporting crimes or cooperating in criminal investigations for fear that they will be taken into custody and deported. If you are a Trump fan, you’ll probably hate this book, as well as most books that reflect a realistic and compassionate view of how America’s leadership has betrayed its values. If you are a crime fiction fan, you’ll probably regard The Rule of Law as another winning entry in the Dismas Hardy series.


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