The Ophelia Cut is the newest novel in Lescroart’s long-lived series centered around a cluster of friends within the legal and police community in San Francisco, and I would describe it as another hit — despite the cheesy cover on the book. As with most of Lescroart’s novels, his characters are all-too-human, portrayed with a depth rarely seen in a legal thriller, and it is they which drive the plot forward, and not the other way around.
A rapist is murdered, and the rape victim’s father is Moses McGuire, a hard-drinking and volatile bar owner and brother-in-law to criminal lawyer Dismas Hardy. Hardy, along with fellow lawyer Gina Roake, new District Attorney Wes Farrell, Homicide department chief Abe Glitsky and McGuire himself, have all kept a dangerous secret for years, and when McGuire gets arrested for the rapist’s death, the others are afraid that McGuire could break under pressure and spill the beans, destroying them all. Hardy undertakes to defend McGuire despite all evidence pointing to his brother-in-law as the killer. One other possible suspect is Tony, a squirrely sort of guy with a mysterious past who befriends Hardy and begins dating McGuire’s daughter around the time of her rape. Also in our sightlines are corrupt politician and mayoral contender Liam Goodman for whom the rapist worked, and one of his major contributors, brothel owner Jon Lo.
If the story sounds complicated, it is, but Lescroart very deftly gives us more than enough background to keep the strands separate while giving us different perspectives from the various characters’ viewpoints. Everything hangs on sowing doubt about McGuire’s guilt within the jurors’ minds, while trying to turn up evidence that will point in a different direction. Hardy’s creditable performance in the courtroom is, however, not magical, and he is clearly losing the fight. The courtroom climax, when it comes, is as shocking for its effect on the trial as it is for its aftermath. The lives of all of our favorite Lescroart characters are dramatically changed and nothing will be the same. And for the rape victim herself, left to fend for herself while the drama swirled around her father, the future remains grim.
When you’ve turned the final page of The Ophelia Cut, you won’t have any easy solution to the tensions that have inexorably built throughout the book. Instead, you have been posed a whole load of new moral and ethical questions to consider after you’ve put the book down, and it’s exactly what I love about Lescroart’s writing.