Review: The Missing Piece – Dismas Hardy #19 (John Lescroart)

The Missing Piece is the nineteenth in a series, the lea character of which (as billed/titled, anyway) is Dismas Hardy. This book, however, features more of Abe Glitsky, a PI, and Wes Farrell, a former prosecutor, now defense attorney, who is having a midlife crisis about defending people he believes are guilty. According to some things I read, Lescroart cycles through characters, putting some (like Abe and Wes here) in the forefront, and then in the next book, putting others at the front. No problem with that!

I’ve not read any of the books in this series, and I don’t think it’s necessary to start at one and land here, as it’s fine as a standalone. There are enough details about the relationships between the characters that it easily works as a standalone.

Eleven years ago, Farrell prosecuted Paul Riley for the rape and murder of Dana Rush. The Exoneration Initiative, akin to the Innocence Project, finds new DNA evidence pointing to another man who was already in prison for the same crime. That man confessed to Dana’s murder, and Paul Riley is released. Paul heads home to live with his father. After Paul cleans up and remodels the room above the garage, his father decides Paul should start paying rent, at $2500/month. Thanks, dad. Since Paul doesn’t make much at the restaurant where he works – and certainly not enough to pay dear old dad’s price, he decides to go back to breaking and entering.

After one job, he’s back in his place, when his dad calls up to him. Paul thinks pops sounds a little off, so he shoves the loot under his pillow, opens the door, but it isn’t dad. Paul has an “Oh, shit” moment, but the person at the door shoots Paul in the head before he can do anything.

A couple of detectives show up, and Paul’s father tells them he saw the shooter: Doug Rush, the father of the girl Paul murdered. So, despite everything that screams bullshit about this – including dad’s attempt to say the money Paul has stuffed under his pillow belonging to him, the dad the scumbag – thee two just bop right over to Doug’s place. After asking him a couple of questions about where he’s been, and his refusal to tell them anything, they decide to go ahead and arrest him on the basis of Paul’s dad’s eyewitness. This is the dumbest thing in the book, given how notoriously unreliable eyewitnesses are. In any case, while getting the cuffs on Doug, one of the detectives, who clearly has some issues, beats him. Of course someone captures it on video. Doug makes a call to a detective that worked his daughter’s case,who in turn calls Farrell: Doug wants Farrell as his lawyer.

Farrell agrees to represent Doug, even though he thinks Doug is guilty. He manages to get Doug out on bail, though, then goes back to his life, talking to multiple people about his existential crisis. When Doug doesn’t appear in court when he’s supposed to, Farrell immediately goes to” guilty, he’s a runner.

But Doug turns up dead, and not by suicide. Farrell now feels guilty, talks to Hardy, and in comes Abe, to poke around at what happened, as they feel they owe it to Doug.

From there, we get a real investigation, instead of whatever the hell the detectives who arrested Doug were doing (they were suspended shortly after arresting him). Abe finds Doug did indeed have an alibi for the time Paul was shot, but it wasn’t something Doug wanted to reveal, in order to protect someone. Then yet another body shows up, and Abe dogs the case until he discovers that missing piece.

Although there is some time devoted to Farrell and his issues with working defense instead of offense, those moments don’t drag the book down. Since I’m a weather nerd, I didn’t mind the descriptions of that throughout the book. The main characters are well developed by now, of course, and they all act like real, actual people. The story itself raises questions about how possible criminals are treated, how new testing that wasn’t available years ago shows innocent people have been locked up, and what justice means or should be. The missing piece, to me, had a bit of luck involved, but sometimes, you do get lucky.

Four and a half stars, rounded up to five.

Thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.

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