Although reluctant to get involved when asked by Catherine Hanover—Dismas Hardy's former college sweetheart and now principal suspect in the double murder of her father-in-law and his lover—the attorney agrees, against his better judgment. The ensuing investigation uncovers tangled connections between the mayor of San Francisco, Kathy West, and the wealthy Paul Hanover, one of her largest financial backers.
Long-standing animosity against former police detective Abe Glitsky on the part of the officer in charge of the murder investigation, Dan Cuneo, further complicate the case. As a result of several suspicious deaths years ago, which may have involved Glitsky, Cuneo harbors a bitter grudge, causing him to reject any explanation other than Catherine's “obvious” strong motive: the money Paul's children stood to inherit if he and his fiance were both dead.
Despite eye-witness accounts of Catherine's being at the crime scene and having bought a container of gasoline—the accelerant used to burn the bodies in the torched mansion—Hardy and Glitsky remain unconvinced of her guilt, particularly since her father-in-law was involved in a business conflict that would have cost him millions of dollars had he lost. But the fact remains that Paul Hanover revised his will, leaving everything to his fiance, Missy.
The Motive provides fast-paced suspenseful action, plenty of red herrings to keep readers puzzling over the identity of the real murderer, as well as the identity of one of the murder victims. John Lescroart has created interesting criminal and courtroom scenarios and well-drawn, complex characters. Although the mystery's resolution offers some surprises, the motives behind the gruesome murders makes logical albeit disturbing sense.