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John Lescroart’s latest novel, The Missing Piece, continues the story of defense attorney Dismas Hardy & gang, this time with former DA Wes Farrell defending Doug Rush, a bereaved father, accused of killing Paul Riley, the newest released prisoner thanks to the Exoneration Project. Paul Riley was convicted of raping and killing Doug’s daughter.
I give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. I mainly deduct 1.5 stars because of the overbearing white privilege. Also, this book is not a legal thriller but a murder mystery. While I appreciate a good mystery, I don’t care for the bait-and-switch copy on the Amazon page. If you mention the former DA now defending a murderer, you should deliver on your promise.
Book Synopsis of The Missing Piece by John Lescroart
The book begins with Wes Farrell, who is having an existential crisis: the former DA doesn’t much like defending people. In a classic prosecutor mindset, he thinks that even if the defendant isn’t guilty of the particular crime that he is charged with, he’s guilty of something. And deserves to go to prison because of it.
I’m going to get this right out before continuing: that’s a bunch of white man privileged bullshit. This is the reason why more people of color need to write legal fiction because old white men are perpetuating this idea that people who are charged with a crime did a crime.
I characterize the police as a “necessary evil.” Lescroart’s characterization that most cops are on the straight and narrow completely ignores the racial prejudices that happen every day, all day. I wouldn’t disagree with anyone that “more often than not” when a person is charged … they are guilty of something. My issue is that the police target people of color at a proportionally higher rate than their white counterparts. It’s easy to sit in your ergonomic chair and proclaim that people who are arrested should do the time because if they are arrested, they are bad actors.
Anyway, this isn’t supposed to be a rant about the fallacies of the police. Cops have a job that I don’t want, and I appreciate the work that they do. But they are still human, okay? That means they are still assholes, just like the rest of us.
Moving on … the reader is then introduced to Paul Riley, who goes back to his old ways of being a thief. His father isn’t too much better. Anyway, someone kills Paul. We then meet our bad cops of the day, Ken Yamashiro and Eric Waverly. Paul’s father, James Riley, gives an eyewitness ID that the murderer is Doug Rush.
Back to Wes, and we meet some douche client, who is a little too on-the-nose for my liking. All career criminals know you can’t tell your lawyer that you are going to commit a crime. We then get a bit of backstory, why Wes doesn’t like defending murderers too much. Spoiler alert: his friend was a murderer. Wes then talks to Dismas about retirement.
Now we meet Doug Rush, who is visiting the grave of his baby girl Dana. Doug has a terrible encounter with Yamashiro and Waverly … the cops beat the crap outta the poor dude.
We meet another cop, Nick Halsey, who was the arrest officer for Paul’s case and subsequently befriended Doug. Wes receives a call from Halsey to take Doug’s case. He’s in the middle of dinner with his wife, Sam, and she is irritated that he took a call during dinner. I agree with her … this little bit shows that Wes’s work often gets in the way of his leisure time … but the scene was unnecessary. The reader is put-off by Sam, and I don’t think that was the author’s intention. Wes then goes to meet his new client and all but tells Doug that Wes thinks Doug is a murderer.
A bit of an interlude, Dismas and Fran are wondering if Wes will actually retire.
Next scene: Doug gets arraigned. We meet Amanda Jenkins, the DA who replaced Wes. She will be trying this case herself, which apparently is unusual. We have some protestors in the courtroom, which is another added scene that does little for the overall storyline because they don’t make another appearance. Doug gets a deal for 11 years, which he rejects. Wes and Doug have an argument, mostly because Wes doesn’t believe Doug. Doug pled not guilty and has a million dollar bail.
We meet Devin Juhle, who is the supervisor of Yamashiro and Waverly. The star duo are put on administrative leave. Waverly, however, decides to do go interview James Riley again, this time getting an official statement and lineup from a “six-pack.” The eyewitness is not that great.
Next, we meet Abraham (Abe) Glitsky, who is actually the main character of this novel. (In other words, everything up until this point is … kind of off-track.) Glitsky is assigned to investigate this case because time has jumped about a month, and Doug is missing. Doug’s supposed to be at his preliminary hearing. In Pennsylvania, a defendant is not required to be at the preliminary hearing. So in whatever state that they are in, a defendant might be required to be at the prelim, or this is one of those details that is conveniently glossed over to make the book plotting work.
At any rate, they do some investigating as to Doug’s whereabouts: Glitsky, Wes, and Hardy go meet Julia Bedford, who was Doug’s friends-with-benefits and downstairs neighbor. I dislike this chapter, mainly because the author did a poor job of making sure the reader knows about the time jump. They find out that his bike is still at home, and it doesn’t look like someone forced his way into the apartment.
In the next chapter, Dismas gets a hold of the very slim pickings of the murder file, e.g. there wasn’t anything at all, with the exception of the Glock 40. Apparently, the Glock 40 is used a lot because it doesn’t leave behind good ballistics (although I could not verify that statement). Apparently, this law firm is all about everyone in each other’s business. Dismas then goes to meet James Riley to confirm the eyewitness, which wasn’t very good.
Back to Glitsky, who is Juhle’s office when a phone call comes in that a body was found .. who happened to be Doug in the Shakespeare Garden park. Back at Dismas’s office, the gang discusses this new development. Wes still doesn’t believe Doug and thinks his client off’ed himself to avoid prison. Glitsky goes to get some evidence: he makes a visit to the coroner, Amit Patel. The unofficial conclusion is that there was no way that Doug could have killed himself. Back at the Hardy firm, Glitsky convinces everyone that he needs to investigate Doug’s murder, which is eventually given the a-okay.
Glitsky begins by investigating the Exoneration Initiative (EI), which is how Paul Riley got out of prison to begin with. Someone else (Deacon Moore) confessed to the crime. Lescroart keeps saying the phrase “factually innocent,” which is quite annoying. He uses this phrase to distinguish from the actually innocent people, e.g. where DNA proved the person innocent. We meet Martin Dozier, who works for the EI. Glitsky and Martin agree to keep in touch.
Back at Julia’s apartment, Glitsky enlists her help to figure out who might have killed Doug. Then he and his wife, Treya, have a discussion about the half million that is due to Paul Riley for all the years in prison. Glitsky then goes back to Doug’s apartment and uncovers an address on a New Yorker magazine. So of course, he now has to investigate this. And we meet Bridget Fores, who is married an airline pilot named Theo. Bridget is also Doug’s lover, and she gives Doug an alibi for the time of Paul’s murder.
Glitsky decides to talk to Juhle, who refers him to Jack and Jill (Royce and Gomez), the homicide detectives who are investigating Doug’s murder. Glitsky drops that Doug was innocent by the way of Bridget. Jill tells Glitsky that the pair struck out with a search warrant, though. Glitsky then heads over to the restaurant where Paul worked, and the detective finds out that Paul was a scumbag, who probably did rape and murder Dana.
The Glitsky pair discuss whether this case will be dangerous for Abe, when he has a sudden epiphany about something Martin said about how people who get released with EI’s help die within a few months of getting out. Martin also admits that sometimes EI gets it wrong.
In the Hardy office, the gang is out of ideas. Glitsky goes to see Halsey, who thinks that Doug “absolutely” killed Paul. The detective then goes to the YBMC, a motorcycle gang that Doug was in. Glitsky then goes through some detective analysis because he has nothing. But then he goes to see Martin, who has been thinking about their last conversation. He pulls up the four people who are “factually innocent,” all who died shortly after being released.
We find out that Theo and Bridget Forbes have died, so Glitsky, Jack, and Jill huff it up to that county. A Glock 40 did them in an apparent murder/suicide after Jack and Jill went to see the pair (to question them). They go back and forth whether Theo killed Doug because the pilot knew about his wife’s affair.
Glitsky then goes to see Julia again, who throws herself at the detective. The two talk about the newest developments, and Glitsky lets on that maybe Julia is a suspect because of the jealousy between Julia and Bridget. Back at the office, Glitsky breaks open the file that Martin gave him. He studies Paul’s murder case file. He then leaves a message for the prosecuting attorneys in the other three cases.
Glitsky then goes back to the YBMC, to follow up whether one of the bikers got mad at Doug for hitting on the biker ladies. He manages to piss off the head honcho, which results in a hit over his own head. We now see Glitsky at home, but he is forced to go to the ER. After a good night’s sleep, he in inundated with telephone calls. Despite being told to stay in bed, he goes out for Martin’s file again. Speaking to Pam, he realizes that he called the wrong people for the other three EI exonerees … so he instead calls the investigating detectives.
As an interlude, Glitsky receives a rando phone call about Keating, who got caught with a gun by his parole officer. He then hears a voicemail from Julia, who is beside herself that she is a suspect (or beside herself that she needs Glitsky to come back so she can throw herself at him again). He goes off to see Jack and Jill to tell them about Keating. More phone calls from the other investigating detectives … and then he sees Shirlee Harris in HR. He’s got a hunch.
Anyway, he solves the case.
The Missing Piece Continued
He needs to get a hold of Jack and Jill again, but they aren’t answering. He then calls Juhles, who unfortunately cannot not answer. They go off to see Julia, and they ask for her help. They ask her to call … the killer … to tell him that she saw him go upstairs to talk to Doug.
Of course, the killer needs to show up at Julia’s apartment to kill her. He couldn’t have her going to the police or anything. There’s a bit of a shoot out, and Jack and Jill are hit. Glitsky is hit, too, but he manages to kill Nick Halsey, who killed the four EI exonerees, Doug, and probably Theo and Bridget.
We wrap up, including that Yamashiro and Wyverly are fired. The end is when Gina walks up to Wes, who is contrite about missing the mark on Doug.
Legal Review on The Missing Piece
As I’ve stated, this isn’t a legal thriller, so there isn’t much to review. I found Wes’s discourse about whether he should continue to be a defense attorney to be interest, albeit white washed.
I also like that he felt badly about misjudging Doug Rush, although I also found having the investigator continue investigating … because Doug paid a handsome retainer … to be disingenuous at best. I seriously doubted that any high court would be okay with using his retainer not to defend him in a criminal trial. (The high court in each state is what runs the ethics and the bar.)
Reading this book made me feel like Lescroart was really writing a catch-up book. Kind of like when television shows just do a show that made up of a bunch of scenes from previous episodes.
This book was a pretty good murder mystery. The book is predominantly about PI Abe Glitsky, and Abe is a likeable guy. I imagine that Abe is the cop that I want to be on the police force, not Yamashiro and Waverly.
Speaking of the duo, I found it distasteful that Yamashiro and Waverly were suspended following Doug’s murder and exoneration. Not that what the cops did was okay, but I can’t underscore how this would not have happened if the defendant was Black. That they were suspended because Doug was a white man (actually, I don’t know if Doug was white … Lescroart danced around the issue of race entirely) doesn’t sit too well with me.
Overall, I found the writing to be good, even though it was too much on-the-nose at times. As stated, my only other issue was the overbearing white privilege. I hope Lescroart tones it down for his next book.