cover image The 13th Juror

The 13th Juror

John Lescroart. Dutton Books, $22.95 (480pp) ISBN 978-1-55611-402-1

Further evidence that Lescroart ( Hard Evidence ) can hold his own among legal-thriller writers comes with this taut novel about an abused San Francisco housewife who is arrested for shooting both her seven-year-old son and her physician husband, a control freak. Narrator Dismas Hardy, defense attorney and hero of four previous Lescroart novels, has plenty of suspects and issues to grapple with. First there's his icy, recalcitrant client, Jennifer Witt, who refuses to go with a battered-wife defense; Jennifer's aloof psychiatrist, who may or may not be her lover; some financial shenanigans concerning the victim's business that provide plenty of motive for high-stakes murder. Then there's the problem of Dismas's grandstanding boss, whose flamboyant, hit-or-miss style leaves Dismas constantly scrambling for higher legal ground. Finally, there's Dismas's wife, who resents the time her husband spends on the case but who insists on striking up a friendship with the accused without telling her husband. The story gets off to a slow start, and sometimes Lescroart belabors the obvious. He also comes close to telegraphing the solution to the mystery, and much of his writing about the characters' personal lives is hamfisted. Despite these flaws, however, an intricate story and satisfying courtroom scenes carry the day. Fans of the genre should find the second half of the book, which covers the trial, especially engaging. 60,000 first printing; major ad/promo; paperback rights to Dell; audio rights to Bantam Doubleday Dell; large print rights to Thorndike; Literary Guild and Dou ble day Book Club featured alternates. (Sept.)