FATAL by John Lescroart
John Lescroart is primarily known as the author of the series of novels featuring Ditmas Hardy, a San Francisco attorney. Those books have proven to be highly popular and successful. Still every now and then Lescroart throws in a stand alone novel just to keep us on our toes. Such a book is his latest FATAL. It still has all the skills Lescroart has shown us in the past but this time he focuses on the Homicide Division of the San Francisco Police Department.
Beth Tully is a detective with this homicide unit. She and her partner Ike McCaffrey are overworked and underpaid, but both love the job . Outside of work Beth’s time is spent taking care of her teen age daughter and also spending time with her friend Kate Jameson. She and Kate get together regularly to walk, and it is during one of these walks Kate divulges she has become obsessed with a man she met at a dinner party.
Beth counsels Kate not to act on this obsession primarily because both she and the man are married with children. Of course Kate doesn’t listen and has a rendezvous.. Six months later this man is murdered. Who catches the case? Beth and Ike. Still it doesn’t dawn on Beth that this is the man Kate had mentioned. She only spoke his name once in passing conversation and some life altering events occurred after that time.
Trying to solve this murder makes up the heart of the novel, but it is not the only story in the book. There is also a potential romantic relationship Beth enters into, as well as a story about a young woman battling an eating disorder. At times you wonder why Lescroart is mixing in so many characters but by the end you see this is careful plotting to bring in a more complete description of who Beth is and why.
I would describe the overall story as messy, but I mean that in the best sense of the word. Life is messy and this book describes real life. People are not all good or all bad. Parents make mistakes. Nobody lives forever. The deeper you get into FATAL the more you realize it is not going to follow the typical rules of tying up every plot point with a nice red bow. Some things are going to be left to the reader’s interpretation.
None of this is said to indicate the book is not satisfying. It is more than satisfying; it is thought provoking. John Lescroart is a master storyteller as he knows how to craft a plot and how to create fully developed characters. In both of these departments this book comes across as one of his best works, Ditmas Hardy is one of my favorite fictional persons but based on this book I would not be unhappy if another Beth Tully story soon follows.
FATAL is published by Atria Books. It contains 320 pages and sells for $26.99.
Jackie K Cooper