Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Title Six: The Suspect by John Lescroart

Full disclosure: I currently owe the Free Library of Philadelphia over $100 in fines, and am too broke to pay them. Hence, I need to find my reading materials around the house. Not that there is a dearth of books here; quite the opposite. It's just that I've read nearly everything on the shelves, in the cupboards, and under the beds so in order to review fresh material I've been picking up books that I've avoided for one reason or the other.

In the case of John Lescroarts's The Suspect, I had a very good reason for that avoidance. This legal "thriller" is the literary equivalent of an Ambien - it'll put you to sleep fast but you come to four hours later wondering what the hell the point was. In a nutshell: hotshot doctor/innovator Caryn Dryden is found dead in her hot tub two days after telling her spineless husband, outdoor writer Stuart Gorman, that she wants a divorce. As anyone who has seen ten minutes of any Law & Order episode knows, the spouse is always the first suspect. Even though Stuart was out of town at the time of Caryn's death, it's not enough to establish an alibi. Enter a detective with an attitude, a defense lawyer who's been out of the game for a long while, a lawmaker with ties to the deceased, suspect, and said lawyer, a wiseacre PI and some other stock characters, and what you've got on your hands is one hot mess.

I don't read a lot of legal fiction, because in my opinion a lot of it sucks. I'm the reader who doesn't want to be able to guess whodunnit. I want a plot twist at the end that will rock my socks off my feet (or my flip flops, if it's summer). Not only did I figure out the murderer one-third of the way through, but I couldn't believe no one else guessed. The entire case against Stuart is so circumstantial that I laughed at it. The author had one flash of inspiration - to give Stuart a custom license plate reading GHOTI ("The 'gh' sound from laugh, the 'o' from women, the 'ti' from action. So ghoti, pronounced 'correctly,' spelled fish.") - and beats it to death the entire book. In lieu of any other originality, Lescroart just tosses standard plot devices like mistaken identity, big-dollar life insurance policies, shady business dealings and infidelity into a pot, boils it to mush, and serves it up on a plate with garnish. If it were possible to get indigestion from a book, I'd be reaching for a bottle of Mylanta right about now.

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