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Onyx reviews: The Keeper by John Lescroart
Reviewed by Bev Vincent, 03/16/2014
If the Scott Peterson case taught the world anything, it's that when a wife
goes missing, especially from a troubled marriage, the husband is the primary
suspect and, quite often, the culprit. So when Hal Chase's wife vanishes one
night, he knows what the police are going to think. His alibi is soft—he
was picking up his brother from the airport, but the flight was delayed so he
hung out at a bar whose name he can't remember. Drops of blood are found in the
kitchen and their children are asleep in their beds. No one, not even Chase, can
believe Katie would abandon her children, no matter how rough their marriage
Chase is in law enforcement—he's a guard at the San Francisco county
jail—so he knows how these things work. He's familiar with lawyer Dismas
Hardy, Lescroart's series protagonist, because his wife was getting counseling
from Hardy's wife. He decides to get ahead of the ball and hire Hardy to defend
him. It's only a matter of time, he believes, and rightly so, before he's
arrested, despite the absence of a body or any real evidence that Katie is dead.
Of course, his pro-activity makes him look even more suspicious to the cops.
Chase had been romantically involved with a wealthy and stunningly beautiful
woman. He recently broke off the relationship—or so they claim—to
work things out with his wife, and the fact that he willingly reveals the affair
to his lawyer and the cops works in his favor. Unless it's part of a clever ploy
to mislead them. He can't win for losing. Unless Hardy can come up with a
credible alternate theory of the crime that leads to the charges being dropped,
Chase will likely spend a year or two in jail awaiting trial and, if it comes to
trial, he'll almost certainly be convicted of something.
Hardy enlists the help of recently retired detective Abe Glitsky, who is
having a hard time coming to terms with the amount of free time he suddenly has
on his hands. The SFPD is so big that many officers haven't gotten the memo
about Abe's retirement, so he's able to move among his former colleagues as if
he's still on the job, despite the fact that he's trying to gather evidence to
break down their case against Chase.
The investigation has a lot to do with husbands and wives. For a while
there's a certain amount of tension between Dismas and his wife, because she's
privy to information about the supposed victim that she isn't allowed to share
because it is privileged. Abe's wife isn't happy that he's getting involved in
homicide cases again, albeit from the opposite side of the courtroom from his
usual position. And then there's the fraught relationship between Chase and his
wife. Katie gave up a very successful career to raise their children and they've
recently been having trouble making ends meet on his jailer's salary. Her
devotion to the children excluded almost everyone and everything else from their
lives, including members of his family. Even Chase can't do anything right
pertaining to the kids. And once Hardy's wife becomes free to tell the things
she knows about the missing woman, the information does not make Chase's
situation look better.
Complicating matters is the fact that the jail where Chase works has seen a
number of worrisome incidents in recent years, including a couple of suspicious
deaths and drug overdoses. Hardy and Glitsky decide that the only way to
approach the case is to work under the assumption that Chase is innocent, as he
maintains. If that's true, then who else would have reason to kill Katie Chase?
Could the corruption at the jail somehow be related? Frannie Hardy's revelations
make this a real possibility. What are the implications for Chase, then, who is
now behind bars in that very jail, under the watchful and all-too-powerful eye
of his former colleagues?
This reviewer, at least, guessed who was responsible for Katie Chase's demise
very early in the book. There are red herrings aplenty, but nothing that shifted
that initial suspicion. That alone might not have been enough to spoil the
enjoyment of this book, but when Glitsky, in a moment of uncharacteristic pique,
reveals crucial information to the perpetrator, leading to some terrible
consequences, it made the whole thing feel contrived. So, too, does the fact the
Glitsky takes some shortcuts in the investigation that conveniently keep him
from discovering a critical piece of information. The only reason for Lescroart
to push his character to do things so out of character was for the sake of the
plot, which lent a false note to the proceedings. This is compounded by a vague
detail in the overall scenario. How did the killer get Katie Chase to the
location where she was killed? This seems like a crucial part of the
investigation, a question that needs to be answered, but it never is. Lescroart
settles for "somehow," which was a letdown.
Though The Keeper is billed as a Dismas Hardy novel, it is really more
of an Glitsky book. Hardy does appear throughout, but for the most part he
is in the background. Glitsky is
responsible for most of the book's forward momentum, for better or worse.
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