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Hard Evidence (Dismas Hardy) Hardcover – February 18, 1993
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
- Jessica Lahr, Edison High School, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
- Publisher : Donald I. Fine (February 18, 1993)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 478 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1556113447
- ISBN-13 : 978-1556113444
- Item Weight : 1.8 pounds
- Dimensions : 20 x 20 x 20 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,161,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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This third installment featuring the colorfully dubbed “Diz” (short for “Dismas” after the tortured thief from Calvary) was originally published in 1993, and it was only some fifteen years later that it was released in Kindle Edition. I was a big fan of Lescroart’s works in those early days, the advent of the ‘90s, and rented Unabridged Audio Books of his novels whenever opportunity knocked.
In recent years I have tracked down the early works of a few authors, like Lescroart, whose protagonists and creative talent for writing crime fiction thrilled and impressed me in the past. This book marks my third Dismas Hardy novel in the lengthy series, and interestingly enough, I hadn’t read any of the first three books in the series. It was gratifying that I found myself immersed in the genesis of Dismas Hardy for the first time and experiencing his character arc as it was gradually being developed by his talented creator over three decades ago.
I just finished reading HARD EVIDENCE and my big “takeaway” from the experience is that the book was just too long. The 550-page novel seemed to go on forever, and although there have been times that I have enjoyed a book so much that I wished it WOULD go on forever, this wasn’t one of those times.
The narrative picks up soon after the harrowing events that take place in THE VIG, Book 2 of Lescroart’s series featuring the exploits of Hardy. Dismas and Frannie have now “tied the knot”, Rebecca has been born and Fran is pregnant again by new hubby Diz. Hardy has been back in the D.A.’s office for the previous four months but he is nearing 40 and is resentful about being assigned cases that he feels should be handed out to a fresh-faced new graduate instead of a former seasoned D.A. such as himself. This served to provide new readers with a bit of meaningful back story about Hardy’s past and what he was doing before tragedy struck his family and every facet of his life. This novel actually begins with Hardy “walking the shark” with Pico, which is a “call out” to the debut novel DEAD IRISH. Sadly, the mortality statistics for the sharks he and Pico have tried to save haven’t improved any. It is while they are cutting open the current Great White that they find a disembodied human hand in its belly. The hand is missing a digit but is sporting a serpentine jade ring on the pinkie finger. Hardy is immediately intrigued by the surprising discovery of the hand and wastes no time in approaching his old ally Art Drysdale in the D.A.’s Office. Drysdale is well aware of Hardy’s depth of experience and promises Hardy the case if it is determined to be a homicide.
And so it is that a challenging murder mystery and complex legal thriller begins its long and excruciating journey, the majority of the trip as a whodunit with suspects galore, but ultimately leading to some scenes in the courtroom at the end, and then finally what for me was a less than satisfying conclusion. But let’s start with a review of the clearly positive elements of the novel.
Lescroart is quite simply an outstanding writer, and one of his trademark strengths is creating truly compelling, credible, and believable characters. He also has a knack, a real flair really, for writing witty dialogue and his propensity for injecting dark humor both entertains and holds the reader’s attention for extended intervals of time while the plot gradually unfolds. The backdrop of San Francisco also provides a vivid and colorful landscape with a descriptive atmospheric ambience that infuses an element of realism into the changing scenes.
This book is chock full of “big personalities”, many of who are already fixtures in Hardy’s universe, like his attractive ex-wife Jane, former father-in-law the Honorable Judge Andy Fowler, his friend and business associate at the pub, Moses, and of course the likeable “larger-than-life” Homicide Detective Abe Glitzy. Many of the characters associated with the judicial system will also be familiar to fans, but the author creates a memorable “take no prisoners” D.A. in the character of “Bets” (Elizabeth Pullios). The famous Defense Attorney David Freeman who magically materializes to defend the beautiful Oriental damsel in distress (ostensibly for free publicity) is also a very memorable and believable character. Supporting characters such as the tenacious sympathetic MS-stricken reporter Jeff Elliot also add emotion and substance to the mercurial story line.
A body of course does indeed wash up on the shoreline and is subsequently identified as the well-known Silicon Valley billionaire Owen Nash. Dismas finds himself in the enviable position of prosecuting what is shaping up to be the murder trial of the century. That is, until Pullios, having gradually recognized the amount of media attention the case has generated, pulls the rug out from beneath Hardy’s feet and takes the case for herself.
The initial murder suspect is a mysterious and exotic high end Japanese call girl who was ostensibly hired by the murder victim to be his mistress, totally consistent with his character and former patterns of practice according to his business partner. The victim’s stunningly beautiful and sexy daughter Celine Nash is devastated by her father’s murder and is adamant that the money-grubbing prostitute is the killer. Homicide Detective Abe Glitzy finds himself in the awkward position of having to arrest the alleged money motivated concubine with no basis to charge her for the crime, but rather because she lied to him and was leaving the jurisdiction on a jet plane back to Japan. Pullios meanwhile decides to charge the fleeing mistress for murder and then to find motivation and evidence wherever she can to make the charge stick. Pullios is pretty much prepared to demand the death penalty for jaywalking and hardly bothered about putting the horse before the cart. Hardy meanwhile is steamed that she stole “his” case and because he has been relegated to the duty of being her unofficial gopher by the shallow politically motivated District Attorney. It isn’t my intention to provide a synopsis of the plot, but only to stress that the story is colorful enough, and the characters interesting enough, to get your attention as a reader and keep you guessing about whodunnit for quite a voluminous number of pages. The author’s writing style is just that outstanding.
I’ve already commented that HARD EVIDENCE sports an impressively complex plot, and that is putting it mildly. Hardy finds himself at first collecting facts and findings for the prosecution, standing in the shadow of the controlling Pullios. The famous Defense Attorney Freeman then discovers that his client who is charged with capital murder had an ironclad alibi and the case is dismissed. Diz gets to blink a few times before he discovers that he has done a 180 and sits as the Defense Attorney beside the second person Pullios has decided to prosecute for the same murder. You’d ask yourself how likely it would be for Diz to get fired by the D.A.’s Office and become the attorney of record for the accused in such rapid-fire succession.
In my opinion the author was just too ambitious with this one. There was just too much going on in the story line that at about the 75% mark I felt myself still interested but wondering if the writer would ever finally “wrap it up”. I was getting to the point of feeling tired and fighting off boredom. It was also a disappointment that I was able to successfully guess the real killer fairly early on in this novel, and even the tentative motivation that I had assigned to the murderer was “dead on” (pun intended). I don’t have a great track record in guessing or figuring out surprise endings, so maybe this one was perhaps too easy. Now despite my main gripe that the author could have shaved a couple hundred pages off this tale of murder and mayhem, I would still have rated the book at 3.75 Stars (rounded to 4 Stars) but for the mounting antagonism I acquired toward the main protagonist Hardy.
I decided that the book didn’t deserve more than 3 Stars because of the feelings of disgust I had to absorb due to several actions taken by the main character of Diz. In addition, I was disappointed and depressed by the conclusion of the book, the nature of which was decided and orchestrated by Hardy. Diz is a newlywed in this third installment. He had been involved with his former wife Jane in the prior book, but was ultimately honest with his ex-wife about his feelings for Frannie. That showed me as a reader that his moral compass was pretty much intact. In this novel, he meets the stunning Celine Nash, daughter of the murder victim, and essentially “goes to hell in a hand basket” over her. In one scene he had neglected to take one minute out of his schedule to call Frannie (and her brother, his best friend Moses) to let them know he was running late meeting them for a special occasion. He was ridiculously late, and Frannie had feared for his safety (realistic considering her former cop husband had been murdered). He was skating on thin ice already and then along comes Celine. He meets her at a bar instead of his office, and they are too touchy-feely for a professional meeting. He subsequently goes home to his wife and engages in some wild sex while avoiding looking at her face and focusing in his mind on the face and body of Celine. Then:
“In the light of day, he thought it hadn’t done him any harm to fantasize—it was natural once in a while. No need to whip himself over it. “
Later in the book he meets Celine knowing full well he is walking into the inferno, and the two play sex games together in a sauna to the point of climax. In light of the facts that these manipulations did not technically meet the criteria of coitus, he judges that he did not cross the line of having sex with another woman. This is even more maddening because before he sees Celine again (following the first meeting in a bar instead of his office) his self-reflections and assessment of the situation is as clear and concise as it can be. He recognizes the danger, and clearly knows what remedial actions he can take to avoid an inevitable betrayal of his marriage vows. Specifically, if you don’t want to get burned to a crisp you don’t walk into a blazing fire. Yet despite his self-awareness he first cheats in his heart with his fantasies of Celine, then later is unfaithful in the flesh (actual coitus is not necessary to meet the definition of infidelity).
That said, this behavior made me dislike the character more than all of his negative traits that were disclosed in the first two installments of the book series combined. I made excuses for Dismas behaving like a sloth, dulling his senses with booze daily, his less than studly approach to a death threat considering he is ex-military and an ex-cop, and also his naivete (or some would say stupidity) getting himself almost killed by making rookie mistakes cornering a murderer with no back up, etc. He DID lose a decade of his life because of human tragedy after all. But Diz cannot be all too human, with so many frailties of conscience, and yet be simultaneously self-righteous as sin (demanding his client take a lie detector test to convince Diz of his innocence before he acted as his Defense Attorney for example). Then he can’t keep his eyes from wandering, his hands to himself, and his dress pants intact when confronted with a bit of temptation on the job. Given the cascading disappointments I shouldn’t have been surprised that Hardy would “top himself” and decide that he was self-important enough to just get his client a Not Guilty verdict based upon Reasonable Doubt, and not be a righteous enough man and attorney to seek justice for the albeit, flawed victim. Hardy had carried out a thorough investigation with the help of all those who contributed information and clues to solve the puzzle of who murdered Owen Nash. He knew the identity of the killer and did virtually nothing about it. The narrative at the conclusion of the book tells the reader the fate of the guilty party, but even though it was somehow sad, the fact Hardy concealed the truth and let a murderer go free still left a bitter taste in my mouth.
All of the books take place in San Francisco. As this is local territory for me it adds color and familiarity which is a definite attraction. His books, at least thus far in my reading, are all who dunnits. There are enough twists in the trail to make it an interesting guessing game as the ultimate killer is among the characters who are presented early in the game. Identity and motive are well concealed until the end. In this book I targeted the murderer before the author revealed the identity but did not suspect the motive which motive which was jarring in itself.
The personal lives of the main characters are presented in a manner that makes them alive and interesting unlike some mystery authors who see house these aspects as filler.
There are a few in the series I have yet order, think I will add them to my Kindle now. My actual rating would be 4 1/4 stars.
One of my favorite authors.