The First Law

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Wade Panos owns and directs Patrol Special, a private security firm that augments the San Francisco police department. Over time, Panos uses his influence to attract extracurricular illegal profits, and his direction of Patrol Special slips. Employees like his nephew, Nick Sephia, develop a taste for violence that spills over into their work. Folks on Patrol Special beats report a variety of legal abuses.

San Francisco attorney Dismas Hardy and his mentor, David Freeman, learn of Patrol Special’s misdeeds. They initiate a lawsuit, which could necessitate full disclosure of Wade Panos’s assets. Panos moves to protect himself by enlisting the wayward Sephia to commit a robbery on a Patrol Special beat, which Sephia bungles into a fatal shooting. Panos frames John Holiday, a friend and drinking buddy of Hardy’s, for the shooting. Then, he subtly exerts his still potent influence with the SFPD to discredit Hardy and his closest friend, former homicide chief Abe Glitzky, who have launched an investigation of their own. Glitzky’s efforts are denounced as thinly disguised attempts to regain control of Homicide, which he was forced to relinquish while recovering from his own near fatal gunshot wound. Hardy is reviled as a shyster who will do anything to preserve his lawsuit against Patrol Special. When they persist, the increasingly desperate Panos resorts to beatings and intimidation.

John Lescroart draws less upon the courtroom in this thriller, focusing instead upon the character and ethics of Hardy and those he loves. There is tragedy afoot, as the series loses a key member. Relationships are shaken, unthinkable ideas are revisited, and each character faces both nagging questions and ambivalent answers.