The start of this book finds Wes Farrell—former San Francisco District Attorney and presently a partner with Hardy’s law firm—disillusioned with his cause as he does not believe in the innocence of his clients anymore, his cynicism deepened by a recent experience with a lowlife of a client. Elsewhere in the city, Paul Riley—convicted by Wes in his law enforcement days for rape and murder of one Dana Rush and rescued recently by the Exoneration Initiative after eleven years of jailtime—is killed by a close-range shot to head in his home.
The obvious suspect of Paul’s murder is Doug Rush, Dana’s father, whom Paul’s father James claims to have seen fleeing the crime scene, and the police immediately arrest Doug—indeed an open and shut case. But Doug denies the charge and wants Farrell to represent him, unaware of his present mental state. Albeit being unconvinced of his client’s innocence—Doug has a just cause to kill Paul, after all, and is cagey about his alibi at the time of the killing—Wes nevertheless gets him out on bail and gets the trial scheduled in a month. Inexplicably, Doug disappears on the trial day and the task of tracking him down falls to cop-turned-Private Investigator Abe Glitsky. With a strong feeling that Doug has been dealt a bad hand in life, Glitsky puts all his considerable resources into the matter and uncovers, after chasing several false leads and putting his own life in harm’s way, a story much bigger than just Paul and Doug.
The Missing Piece was my first experience with the work of Lescroart—renowned for his legal thrillers—and I was mildly disappointed initially that this is not a legal thriller as such. But my disappointment gave way to admiration once I got into this finely plotted novel with interesting characters, and a good, solid mystery. Though I had a hunch about the identity of the killer well before the end, the denouement was still fascinating. The friendship among the lead characters, developed over the decades, is charming and their banter is highly amusing.
While the book starts off with Farrell in focus, it turns into a Glitsky show all the way as soon as he makes his appearance. Close to sixty-five years old, Glitsky is a far cry from the typically smart and brawny sleuth of the fictional universe, but is equally, if not more, engaging due to his genuineness. Dismas Hardy, the more famous of Lescroart’s creations, has only a fringe role in this one. The families of Glitsky and the other lead actors play their part without intruding much on the story’s flow. My only complaint with this novel is that the actual killer has not been given adequate screen-time; some more background into the killer’s motivation would have made it more exciting.
All in all, The Missing Piece is a well-written thriller with realistic characters, engaging plot and an important ethical issue at the core. I certainly enjoyed this book and Lescroart’s writing, and am looking forward to reading more from the series.