The Oath

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Perhaps the most appealing aspect of John Lescroart’s Dismas Hardy mysteries is the abiding friendship between cop-turned-attorney Hardy and his former beat partner, amiable but unsmiling Lieutenant Abe Glitzky, head of the homicide division. In chapter three of The Oath, Hardy joins Glitzky and his new bride, Treya Ghent, for what has become an informal weekly lunchtime gathering with a group of legal colleagues. The city District Attorney, Clarence Jackman, sobers the jovial atmosphere when he reveals that Parnassus, the city’s health insurance provider, has initiated a lawsuit against the city, demanding payment of more than $13 million in unpaid bills.

While those assembled blithely discuss the lawsuit, news breaks that Parnassus CEO Tim Markham is dead, the victim of a hit-and-run driver. His death appears the inevitable result of his injuries. However, the autopsy discloses a fatal dose of potassium. The entire chain of events becomes complicated by the grisly discovery of Markham’s wife and children, shot to death at home on the evening following his funeral.

The wealth of suspects leads to serious rifts between Hardy and Glitzky. Glitzky tabs as chief suspect one Dr. Eric Kensing, whose wife had left him for Markham, and who was last to leave the Markham home on the night they were killed. But Hardy, named to defend Kensing, champions equally likely culprits. Dr. Malcolm Ross, Markham’s successor at Parnassus, was desperately strapped for cash. Brendan Driscoll, Markham’s former personal secretary, had learned that he was about to be dismissed. Rajan Bhutan, an intensive care nurse, has a disturbing knack for being present when patients perish.

The Oath will please regular Lescroart readers with its customary dose of legal maneuvers. But all readers will hold their breath at the deeply moving resolution, one that ultimately affirms the bond between Hardy and Glitzky.