With the Return of a Popular Defense Attorney, this Thriller is a ‘Cut’ Above the Rest

John Lescroart is a prolific writer of legal and crime-based thrillers with two dozen novels to his name. Readers all over the world love Lescroart, and he’s got the sales figures (15 best-sellers) and translations (20 languages and counting) to prove it. His latest effort, The Ophelia Cut (Atria Books, $27), features the return of his most popular character, San Francisco defense attorney Dismas Hardy. This is my very first encounter with Lescroart, but even I can understand what a big deal this is. Hardy—the chief protagonist in more than half of Lescroart’s books—has been MIA since 2009’s A Plague of Secrets. Hardy’s a big, colorful character: an ex-Marine, ex-cop, and lapsed Catholic who is serious about justice but isn’t afraid to break the rules by taking the law into his own hands.

Of course, The Ophelia Cut isn’t just about the return of Dismas Hardy. There’s a whole supporting cast of Lescroart regulars, each of whom star in their own books from time to time: Abe Glitsky, a lieutenant in homicide, lawyer Gina Roake and private investigator Wyatt Hunt.

Much of the action in The Ophelia Cut revolves around Moses McGuire, the recovering alcoholic who co-owns a bar, the Little Shamrock, with Hardy. They’re not just business partners, they’re also related by marriage and linked to scandalous events in their past. When McGuire’s daughter Brittany is manhandled by Rick Jessup, a sleazy ex-boyfriend who works for politician Liam Goodman, McGuire beats some sense into Jessup. When Brittany is raped and Jessup turns up dead, McGuire becomes the prime suspect and it’s up to Dismas Hardy to defend him. Wes Farrell, Hardy’s former law partner, is the current San Francisco district attorney, but—like Glitsky—unable to help Hardy or McGuire.

At least a third of the book is devoted to the big case, with Hardy and the prosecuting attorney each scoring points with the judge and jury. There’s a daunting amount of incriminating evidence, including a missing shillelagh from the Little Shamrock that may well be the murder weapon.

There’s a lot going on in The Ophelia Cut, and readers will get their money’s worth. Lescroart is a competent writer who knows how to develop suspense and juggle multiple storylines, though not everything is properly resolved. At times, I felt like Lescroart was simply laying the groundwork for a dozen more novels.

I don’t eat a lot of junk food, so when I do I don’t apologize for it. The Ophelia Cut may well be a greasy hamburger, but it sure goes down easy. It’s enjoyable, but ultimately forgettable. ★★★☆☆

Stay cool with “Bookini,” our poolside reading series by M. Scott Krause.

[ librarian loves ]

Selected by Jeanne Goodrich, executive director for the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District.

Janis Ian went from an unknown to a chart-topper in 1966, while only 15 years old. “Society’s Child” was the song, and it caused a firestorm of reactions because it depicted an interracial relationship. Her autobiography of the same name (Tarcher, 2008) tells the story of a fascinating life: dizzying ups and downs in her career, health, personal relationships and finances. She’s healthy, in a stable relationship and doing good work. Her story and her approach to her art and learning about herself are inspiring to any reader, whether or not they are familiar with her music.