Onyx reviews: The
Second Chair by John Lescroart
The Second Chair is John Lescroart's newest legal thriller featuring lawyer
Dismas Hardy and San Francisco cop Abe Glitsky. Neither character is doing well
when the story opens. Both are struggling to recover emotionally from the
concluding events of the previous book, The First Law, which Lescroart
(pronounced "les-kwa") has his characters summarize for newcomers to
Hardy isn't practicing much real law since becoming his firm's managing partner
and he's starting to worry about how much he drinks during lunch these days.
Glitsky suffers stress-related illnesses while regretting the fact that his new
position as deputy chief of investigations keeps him at arm's length from the
work he loves the most: solving challenging crimes.
Amy Wu, an associate in Hardy's law firm, is hired to defend Andrew Bartlett,
the seventeen-year-old son of a wealthy couple accused of killing his girlfriend
and their drama teacher. When Wu sees how much evidence the prosecutors have
amassed, her concern over Andrew's innocence or guilt becomes secondary.
Instead, she concentrates her efforts on keeping him in the juvenile court
system, where the most he can serve is eight years. If he is tried as an adult
and convicted, he faces life without parole.
Wu arranges a deal with the prosecutor whereby Andrew will do the full eight
years in juvenile detention if he confesses to the murders. She thinks it's a
win-win situation for everyone. Andrew stays out of adult prison and can return
to normal life when he's twenty-five, and the prosecutor, who is gearing up for
a reelection campaign, gets to clear two murders from the books.
Wu is only half paying attention to her work. Struggling to cope with grief
after her father's death, she stays out late drinking and picking up men in
singles bars. She's called in sick to work frequently and is far behind on her
quota of billable hours. She doesn't consult her client before negotiating the
deal and is caught unprepared when Andrew refuses to confess during the hearing.
Relations between Wu and the prosecutor become antagonistic. The prosecutor
immediately asks for a new hearing to have Andrew tried as an adult and the
judge looks favorably upon this request, believing that Wu had used the
unfulfilled promise of a plea bargain as a delaying tactic. Hardy assigns
himself as second chair to keep an eye on Wu and try to salvage the relationship
between his firm and the prosecutor's office. Whether Andrew is guilty or not
still isn't part of anyone's considerations.
The situation becomes complicated when the prosecutor is murdered, possibly a
victim of a serial killer police are calling the Executioner. The high-profile
killing puts every available resource at Glitsky's disposal and he rediscovers
the thrill of investigating a complex crime.
The Second Chair is about personal resurrections, as each of the main characters
reinvents his or herself, or rediscovers a part of themselves that has been
lost. It's also a reflection on the juvenile court system, where few lawyers
believe in the possible innocence of their own clients.
Though Lescroart 's books appear routinely on the bestseller list, his name has
yet to become a household word. He's a little different from the better-known
authors of legal thrillers—he isn't a lawyer. In fact, little of the action in
his recent novels takes place in the courtroom. They are more literary
character-driven pieces that use legal settings as a canvas upon which he
explores important social issues and the personalities of his major players.
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