The Fall
A novel by John Lescroart
Book review by Jules Brenner
Atria Books, released 5/5/15, 320 pp., $26.99
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In this latest Dismas Hardy legal thriller, crime is devious, tension unrelieved, and reading swift. Its context is the uproar, led by a San Francisco city supervisor, over police showing inadequate interest in solving murders involving African-American victims. And the political pressure created by the accusation is not lost on city officials.

The story gets off with a bang (literally) when Anlya Paulson, a pretty, 17-year old black girl from a foster child program, crash-lands on a moving car, having fallen from a street overpass. Law officials rule out suicide. If the girl was pushed they have a case that could be used to cool off all the supervisor-inspired accusations. This means finding the killer and closing the case pronto.

The story, brimming with coincidence, continues with Dismas Hardy's daughter Rebecca, the youngest associate at his firm, having an after-work drink in the bar Dismas owns. She's chatting with middle school teacher, Greg Treadway, whom she's just met, when a newsbreak appears on the bar TV. It's an OMG moment for Treadway, the teacher, who recognizes the dead girl as someone he's been trying to help and whom he met as a volunteer "CASA," a Court Appointed Special Advocate for Anlya's twin brother, Max, in the foster child program.

Good citizen that he is, he immediately calls the police to report his knowledge of the victim, including having had dinner with her just before her death. Despite the good citizen action, and Inspectors Abe Glitsky, Eric Waverly and Ken Yamashiro being unable to obtain evidence that he was ever on the overpass, the cops and D.A. Wes Farrell reach the conclusion that Treadway, a white man, is the guilty party and arrest him.

He contacts Rebecca to defend him and, with dad seeing this development as an opportunity for his girl to gain trial experience (with his guidance when necessary), she takes on her first homicide case.

Lescroart takes pains to make the first trial for his character credible, giving her a few mistakes in strategy along with homeruns against her legal adversary in the courtroom interplay.

For all the coincidental elements and a degree of predictability created by material that foretell later developments, the author shows originality as events unfold and as characters (often gruesome ones) emerge onto the legal landscape. Overall, despite the carps, it makes for a suspenseful, gripping read.

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