(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

John Lescroart’s Dismas Hardy is an unusual defense attorney. He often asks his clients if they are guilty (the best defense lawyers, as Hardy knows, disapprove of this kind of interrogation), and he confesses to considerable sympathy with the prosecution. This behavior may be due to Hardy’s having been a police officer before entering law school and his having a homicide detective, Abe Glitsky, as his best friend. The need to see justice done is what motivates Hardy and Glitsky. Therefore, even when Hardy believes he has a guilty client—or when the client has confessed—problems with police procedure or with the prosecution’s methods arouse Hardy’s anger. Consequently, he has acquired a reputation for taking on cases that put him at odds with the legal system and with his friend Glitsky.

The desire of these two men to maintain their friendship and to solve crimes together results in complex psychological stories that get at the heart of the personalities who pursue crime and at the way justice is administered. Lescroart’s own experience in a law firm has obviously contributed significantly to his dramatization of how the legal system functions—often to the detriment of suspects, unless indefatigable attorneys like Hardy represent them.

Dead Irish

Dead Irish (1989), the first novel in the Dismas Hardy series, begins with the main character at a low point. His careers as police officer and attorney are gone. He has also failed as a family man (his infant son dies in a tragic accident). He now works as a bartender for his old Vietnam War buddy, Moses, at the Little Shamrock Bar near Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. However, Hardy’s spirits start to revive as he begins to investigate the death of his friend Eddie Cochran, a young man with a promising future who dies in circumstances that suggest suicide. Hardy cannot believe his friend killed himself. To investigate, he has to deal with a police department that clearly wants no vigilante detective barging in on its case. That Hardy persists not only restores a measure of his own dignity but also recovers the truth of Eddie’s death for his family, allowing them to heal as well.

The Mercy Rule

In The Mercy Rule (1998), Graham Russo is accused of killing his father Sal, a down-and-out loner suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. It is known that Sal was thinking of suicide and that he had a stash of morphine that he vowed to use when life became unbearable. Did Graham merely assist his father’s desire to end his suffering? Graham is charged with murder when fifty thousand dollars in cash and a valuable baseball card collection (both belonging to Sal) are found in Graham’s safe deposit box. Even Graham’s family suspects him of criminal intent. Although trained as a lawyer, Graham has given up the profession, first pursuing his dream of playing in major league baseball and then, when he failed to make the cut, indulging in a helter-skelter life that makes it seem probable that his father’s cash and card collection were too much of a temptation for him.

Even Dismas Hardy thinks Graham may be guilty, although Graham steadfastly refuses any deal with the prosecutor. To understand the nature of the crime and who is really...

(The entire section is 1343 words.)