Night Is the Hunter
A Harlan Donnally novel by Steven Gore
Book review by Jules Brenner
Wm. Morrow, released 2/17/15, 320 pp., $14.99
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[Ed. note: because of the unpredictable way accented characters are rendered
in English language browsers, the "en-yays" have been intentionally omitted.]

In the world of legal thrillers, this one represents an aging judge who is deeply troubled by a death sentence he issued years ago -- in particular, his jury instruction which denied defendant Israel Dominguez, a low level cartel member, the chance of voluntary manslaughter, a lesser sentence than of murder one. It was the mistake of a young judge under great pressure. Now, as the execution nears, the aging judge's conscience is keeping him up nights. But the law doesn't allow him to reverse or change his ruling.

A core issue here is the idea of a judge who has the capacity to admit a failure in judgement and is suffering in judgement of himself.

The scene starts on a river in North California when Judge Ray McMullin -- never much of a fisherman -- has a fish on his hook. Watching and helping is probably the only man who can do something about his pal's self torture: ace detective Harlan Donnally, formerly of the homicide division of the San Francisco Police Dep't. who has come to develop a warm friendship with the judge (a fellow Irishman?) in the course of testifying before him through the years.

So, it's not the fish that's on McMullan's mind; nor the reason he agreed to go fishing with Harlan. It's really a now-or-never chance to share his soon-to-be-lethal error with a trusted buddy with the proven expertise to find the truth of how a killing went down that day. There are no other options.

But, in taking on his friend's case (pro bono), Donnally must take his hunt into the vile morass of gang warfare centering in San Francisco, which neither the Nortenos nor the Surenos want to see exposed again to the light of day. Unfortunately, the murder case is all about what these murderous rivals wanted to keep buried: who really pulled the trigger that killed Norteno lieutenant Edgar Rojo.

Israel Dominguez was there when it happened. He just insists the gun wasn't in his hands that day.

Author Gore -- himself a PI -- after the successes of "A Ciminal Defense" and "Final Target," demonstrates a deep and impressive knowledge of the drug gangs rampaging a city in a contest of supremacy in this third Harlan Donnally novel.

If you don't yet own Night Is the Hunter and would like to purchase it (usually at a sizable discount), click here.