cover image Panther’s Prey: A Leo Maxwell Mystery

Panther’s Prey: A Leo Maxwell Mystery

Lachlan Smith. Grove/Atlantic/Mysterious, $24 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2503-3

Fans of Scott Turow will relish Smith’s outstanding fourth Russian nesting doll of a whodunit featuring San Francisco lawyer Leo Maxwell (after 2015’s Fox Is Framed). Leo, who has left private practice to take a job in the public defender’s office, is representing Randall Rodriguez, who “has spent his adult life on the street, in mental hospitals, or in jail.” He also has a record of confessing to crimes he didn’t commit. Despite Rodriguez’s confession of rape in the present case, Leo and his hardworking cocounsel, Jordan Walker, succeed in getting the jury to acquit after providing expert testimony as to why he would admit to something he didn’t do. Leo and Jordan sleep together after the triumph, but the relationship proves short-lived. One night in bed, Jordan receives a text message and kicks Leo out. Three days later, he finds her battered corpse in her apartment, with evidence implicating Rodriguez. The plotting is impeccable, and Smith adds even more layers to his complex lead, while creating a San Francisco as morally ambiguous as Turow’s Kindle County. Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents. (Apr.)