Fatal by John Lescroart (3 out of 5)
I won this one from a Shelf Awareness giveaway. It’s not out until January, so don’t go looking for it now on your bookstore shelves. I hadn’t read John Lescroart in many moons. I forgot how quickly his characters can embrace you and pull you into the group fish fry. It happened quickly, and after I had started a Doctor Who novel that was so terrible I pitched it after 3 chapters. So, thank you, Mr. Lescroart, for getting me into a deeply absorbing novel. But I should also, Mr. Lescroart, smack you six ways to Trump Tower, for leaving me so deeply conflicted at this book’s end. So conflicted yet that I keep changing the starred rating over on Goodreads. And I predict the pattern of lame duck threats will continue throughout this review. But to the reader thinking of reading this in January, I advise you to buy it, read it, and then find me on any social media platform to discuss this further. It’s one of those books that will have me retreading literary ground again and again, trying to find a common thread.
Kate Jameson has a wonderful marriage, great kids, and a great best friend who’s a cop. All of it goes by the wayside when an urge to sleep with a man she meets at a dinner party overtakes her. That man is married and close friends with others in the dinner circle. She phones Peter, the man, and one afternoon of marital infidelity occurs. His marriage goes belly up, Kate pretends as if it didn’t happen, and after a terrorist attack in an outdoor plaza leaves Kate and her friend Beth-the police officer- at death’s door, their own friendship goes into solitary confinement. Until months later, when a body washes up in the harbor and Beth and her partner Ike get the case. The body? The cheating husband, Peter. Beth has to go and rewind the messed up cam reel of what had become Peter’s sordid newfound separated bachelor life, and everyone- and I literally do mean EVERYONE- is a suspect. I almost broke out the damn index cards and enacted a murder board, ala Castle, to keep track. More people turn up dead, and the circle of perps of who could have killed Peter Ash keeps getting wider and more off the rails. Kate, her husband Ron who forgave her, their kids, Peter’s estranged wife Jill, their kids,his friend Geoff, his wife Bina, a partner in the law firm, his landlady, his secretary…damn, Lescroart, damn! No shortage of people here. But the pieces in this puzzle keep shifting, sand appears in the cracks in the pavement, and some of the things that occur did puzzle me, I’m not going to lie. Beth is a great character to have as the cop, fair and often not so fair, but never losing end sight of the important thing- to find the killer and get the victim justice. As a reader, I finished this feeling not quite sure that the victim got justice. The reader will, though. There are no shortages of curveballs thrown to you, courtesy of the author. And it is quite a ride that keeps you plastered to the book until the bitter end. That’s successful. But all of the hullabaloo leading there? I felt like it was a bit too much.
What did I like? Almost everything, except all of the puppets who were suspects. And I didn’t quite buy the end result. I felt cheated, not just on account of the victim, but also for other characters who bit the dust in the book, and for what felt like a giant “Let’s hide the wedding cake in the cedar closet” game. As I said, I loved the character of Beth, also her partner Ike. What I didn’t quite get, come to think of it, was the other storyline running through the book, about Laurie, anorexic sister of the guy that Beth is interested in, and Beth’s daughter Ginny, who ends up striking up a very close friendship with her. I guess there has to be some life for the policewoman who spends the whole book trying to solve this mystery, but it seemed a little filler given the floating corpse in the harbor. As for the usual suspects, they are, as I said, innumerable, and quite a few of them, highly unsympathetic to the point of derision. The friendship between Kate and Beth that is referred to, in what sounds like a sisterhood almost on the book jacket, doesn’t seem to be as much throughout much of the book. A traumatic event where both women are shot and physically and emotionally traumatized as a result? That seems like a great steppingstone for bonded friendships to unite more, but the opposite happened here. And that’s BEFORE Beth remembers Kate admitting she wanted to do the nipple twist with a fellow married man! So..I have a few bones to pick with the book, but overall, still a knuckles white, edge-of-the-seat book. But really….I’m serious. Get it in January, read it, and tell me I’m crazy. I dare you! 😃