The Second Chair

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In The Second Chair, again featuring the partnership of San Francisco attorney Dismas Hardy and newly promoted deputy chief of the San Francisco Police Departments Investigations Bureau, Abe Glitsky, John Lescroart, a bestselling author of fourteen previous novels, continues his foray into the legal, political, and social worlds of twenty first century crime and punishment. His protagonists, joined by Hardy’s young associate counsel, Amy Wu, have pasts that Lescroart has explored before and deftly alludes to as he focuses on a new case of murder that is both less and more than it first appears.

As Amy Wu embarks upon a seemingly hopeless defense of Andrew Bartlett, a high school student accused of murdering his girlfriend and their drama teacher, she convinces the boys socialite parents that their son should plead guilty to remain in the juvenile system rather than be tried as an adult. This ploy works until the boy protests his innocence in court, throwing Wu’s strategy into turmoil and bringing the managing partner of her firm, Hardy, into the case as the second chair of the books title. In the course of this defense, several other murders, including that of District Attorney Alan Boscacci, at first seemingly unrelated to the principal action, are perpetrated by a serial killer dubbed The Executioner.

Lescroart takes the reader on a highly informed and accurate tour of the legal system, the workings of the juvenile courts, the accurate intricacies of police investigations, the financial considerations and budget problems government institutions live with, all the time giving them a series of fully realized human faces by creating characters whose lives and fates compel interest.

Lescroart shows himself a master of dramatic tension and of dramatic irony, giving readers enough clues to guess ahead of his characters, prodding readers to rejoice when the coincidences he pens lead Dismas Hardy and Abe Glitsky, eliminating the obvious and plausible, to effectively defending young Bartlett and to solving the multiple murders.