Book review: The Fall by John Lescroart

When a troubled black teenager falls to her death from a San Francisco overpass, the murder hunt becomes a high-profile political case.
The Fall byJohn LescroartThe Fall byJohn Lescroart
The Fall byJohn Lescroart

If the police and District Attorney’s office don’t find and convict her killer fast, there will be questions in high places. But will the pressure lead investigators into a miscarriage of justice?

John Lescroart, author of a string of cracking legal thrillers, makes a welcome return with his much-loved Dismas Hardy series which has reached its 16th book and this time features an intriguing new twist.

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While wily legal eagle Dismas Hardy indulges himself in a bit of friendly bar work, his adopted daughter and fellow lawyer Rebecca (‘The Beck’) steps into the fray to tackle her first, and what turns out to be, thrilling and complex case.

Rebecca has recently become the newest legal associate in Hardy’s San Francisco law firm and she is eager to get her teeth into her first assignment.

When 17-year-old African American foster girl Anlya Paulson plummets to her death from the overpass above the city’s Stockton tunnel, witness reports convince homicide chief Lieutenant Devin Juhle that she was pushed rather than fell accidentally.

But the crime hunt is going to be under public scrutiny as the police and District Attorney’s team have been heavily criticised for ‘soft-pedalling’ investigations and mishandling the trials of killers of African Americans.

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In their haste to produce a convictable suspect in the glare of the media spotlight, the police focus most of their attention on naïve young teacher Greg Treadway who volunteers as a Special Advocate for foster children and has come into close contact with both Anlya and her brother.

At first, the only thing connecting him to Anlya’s death is a shared meal on the night she died but soon, elements of his story seem to fall apart and Rebecca is drawn into the accused man’s defence.

By the time Greg’s murder trial gets underway, Dismas and Rebecca have unearthed several other theories about the crime including a missing stepfather, a roommate who ran a call girl service, an unstable birth mother and a mysterious homeless man who may have had dealings with Anlya.

As time runs out, Rebecca and Dismas must decide how to present their theories to the jury and even then, the price might be too high to pay…

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Lescroart’s army of fans will delight in seeing Rebecca finally come of age as she takes on a legal conundrum with the help of her father-cum-mentor.

With his trademark style and eye for legal authenticity and small detail, Lescroart concentrates the best of his many writing talents on the riveting police procedural and the dramatic unfolding of a series of courtroom revelations.

The political and social overtones, the exploration of the pitfalls of a rush to convict and a compelling line-up of suspects add extra impetus to a plot that is both fascinating and tense.

Another superb thriller from the courtroom king…

(Headline, paperback, £8.99)