The Second Chair (Dismas Hardy Series #10)

( 14 )

Overview

In the latest of his acclaimed novels featuring Dismas Hardy, John Lescroart skillfully and subtly weaves together a story of a privileged youth on trial for murder, and an entire city on the brink of panic, taking this popular series to new heights of stylish suspense.

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The Second Chair (Dismas Hardy Series #10)

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Overview

In the latest of his acclaimed novels featuring Dismas Hardy, John Lescroart skillfully and subtly weaves together a story of a privileged youth on trial for murder, and an entire city on the brink of panic, taking this popular series to new heights of stylish suspense.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
John Lescroart combines astute social commentary with authentic courtroom drama for another suspenseful legal thriller that stands alongside the first-rate works of Scott Turow and Robert K. Tanenbaum. After the brutal events of The First Law, San Francisco attorney Dismas Hardy has recovered physically from his wounds but suffers a crisis of faith as his confidence in the law is shattered.

Hardy's young associate, Amy Wu, is still struggling with her father's death when she takes on the case of a teenage boy accused of a double shooting. Her judgment clouded, Wu enters into a plea bargain without consulting her young client, who adamantly refuses to play ball. Hardy, who is forced to sit second chair, soon uncovers evidence that the boy may indeed be innocent. As Hardy begins a journey of rediscovery, his newly promoted friend, Abe Glitsky, faces problems of his own, as the police become consumed by the hunt for a serial killer called The Executioner who is terrorizing the city by targeting random victims.

Following the tradition of his long-running Hardy and Glitsky series (The Oath, The Hearing), Lescroart weaves intense situations and corrupt politics into an intriguing tale of social conscience. The narrative grows emotionally resonant, as the protagonists must brave their own worst fears and doubts. The Second Chair is a fast-paced ride through the inner workings of courtrooms, police departments, and the justice system as a whole. In Lescroart's convincing, powerful voice, the novel unwinds into a gritty tale of moral outrage, tempered by heartbreaking human drama.

Publishers Weekly
Lescroart starts slowly and takes too much time building reader interest in this latest addition to his acclaimed San Francisco legal suspense series featuring lawyer Dismas Hardy and cop pal Abe Glitsky (The First Law, The Oath, The Hearing). Dismas is firmly ensconced at the top of his flourishing law firm, and Abe has been made deputy chief of investigations, but neither man really enjoys his exalted executive status. Dismas, who seldom finds himself in a real courtroom these days, has become a high-priced legal fixer who takes meetings, goes to lunch and drinks too much, while Abe yearns for the intellectual challenge and physical thrills of a good murder investigation. Dismas's up-and-coming associate, Amy Wu, lands a case defending Andrew North, a troubled 17-year-old who's been arrested for murdering his girlfriend and high school drama coach. In an attempt to have him tried as a juvenile rather than an adult, Amy commits the inexplicable error of admitting her client's guilt to the district attorney-before even speaking to the accused teenager. After this egregious blunder, Dismas joins his normally stellar associate as "second chair" in the trial and manages to rescue the case and shake his own disillusionment with the legal system. While readers new to the series might feel a bit left behind (Lescroart spends too much time referring to events in past books, particularly The First Law), old fans and those who persevere will be rewarded with a compassionate look at life's vicissitudes and a thorny multiple murder case. (Jan. 26) Forecast: Lescroart has a loyal fan base and The First Law debuted at number four on the New York Times's list. Strong publisher marketing would suggest that this new one will do well. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The Second Chair is the newest in the long-established San Francisco legal/detective series featuring lawyer Dismas Hardy and police detective Abe Glitzky. Amy Wu, a young attorney in the law firm now headed by Dismas, has a high-profile client in Andrew Bartlett, a high school student accused of shooting his girlfriend and drama coach. The evidence against Andrew is extremely damning, and Amy arranges a plea-bargain whereby Andrew would agree to admit guilt in exchange for the case remaining in the juvenile justice system. She's forced to antagonize the court and the district attorney, however, by reneging on the deal when Andrew continues to claim his innocence. Dismas appoints himself to the case as "second chair" to salvage the reputation of his firm, just as it seems that Andrew might not be guilty after all. This is a solid addition to a favorite series, with strong characters and a nice puzzle. David Colacci reads with skill, portraying people and action with all the requisite drama, humor, and sympathy. Highly recommended for fiction/mystery collections.-Kristen L. Smith, Loras Coll. Lib., Dubuque, IA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
San Francisco lawyer Dismas Hardy plays second fiddle to his junior partner in the case of the preppy accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend and their drama coach. For Amy Wu, the question isn't whether Andrew Bartlett, 17, shot Laura Wright, 16, and Michael Mooney, the teacher who was rehearsing the two of them at his apartment. The mountain of evidence against Andrew, from the gun he borrowed from his wealthy stepfather and showed off in school before it vanished just after the murders to the eyewitnesses who put him at the scene, make Amy certain that her client pulled the trigger. What she's fighting for is not his exoneration but the hope that he'll be tried as a minor, facing no more than eight years in juvie. In order to be declared a minor, however, Andrew has to admit to the crime, and that's exactly what he won't do, even after he assures her that he will. The resulting legal gymnastics keep Amy on her toes, antagonize both the prosecutor trying the case and the judge hearing it, and prepare for some nifty surprises. When the most traumatic of them leaves Andrew stranded in the Youth Guidance Center instead of awaiting trial in his parents' home, Hardy, weary of his recent round of cynical deals on behalf of obviously guilty clients, anoints himself second chair to Amy and girds for battle. The biggest battle may be with Andrew, since "he'd never had a client who was less inherently credible." But even as the noose tightens, the bulletins about the Executioner, the methodical serial killer who's terrorizing the city, go a long way toward sucking the mystery out of Dis's latest case. What remains, as usual with Lescroart (The First Law, 2002, etc.), is a sociological take onthe justice system-every motive is carefully nuanced, every player rooted in social reality-excelled only by Scott Turow.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451211415
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/28/2005
  • Series: Dismas Hardy Series , #10
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 624
  • Sales rank: 361,798
  • Age range: 18 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 4.44 (w) x 7.56 (h) x 1.37 (d)

Meet the Author

John Lescroart is the bestselling author of eighteen previous novels, which have sold more than ten million copies. He lives with his family in Northern California.

Biography

John Lescroart has made a name (albeit an unpronounceable one!) for himself as the author of crime thrillers, most notably an acclaimed series starring the San Francisco lawyer-and-cop team of Dismas Hardy and Abe Glitsky. But the road to bestsellerdom has been paved with more than a few unexpected detours for this hardworking novelist, who has been writing all his adult life but who only started to chart big around the mid-1990s.

Lescroart (pronounced les-KWA) grew up with an equal interest in music and writing. After college, he concentrated his energies on the former, performing alone and in bands around the San Francisco Bay area and scribbling in whatever spare time he could find. But he set a deadline for himself, and when he had not "made it" by age 30, he quit music to focus on writing. Within weeks he finished up a novel-in-progress based on his experiences living in Spain. He submitted it to a former high school teacher who was less than dazzled; but the man's wife loved it and entered the manuscript in a local competition. Although it would not formally see print for another four years, Sunburn won the prestigious Joseph Henry Jackson Award, beating out Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire for the best novel by a California author.

To support his art, Lescroart held down a dizzying succession of jobs -- from house painting and bartending to working as a legal secretary. At one point, just as he was ready to enroll in the creative writing program at Amherst, he was offered a lucrative gig he could not afford to pass up, and graduate school fell by the wayside. As the years passed, some of his books were published, but he never felt financially secure enough to write full-time. Then, in 1989, he contracted spinal meningitis after body-surfing in contaminated seawater. He emerged from his life-threatening ordeal with a new resolve, quit the last of his day jobs, and became a real working novelist.

It took a few tries for Dismas Hardy to become the fully realized character Lescroart's fans have come to know and love. Debuting in 1989's Dead Irish, Hardy began life as an ex-cop/ex-attorney turned bartender and did not return to the practice of law until his third appearance in Hard Evidence (1993). From then on, interest grew in the series, which has snowballed into a lucrative franchise for the author. In 2006, Lescroart introduced another San Francisco-based dynamic duo, private investigator Wyatt Hunt and homicide detective Devin Juhle, in The Hunt Club. Slightly younger than Hardy and Glitsky but drawn with the same humanizing brush, the protagonists of this series have proved immensely popular with readers.

Incidentally, Lescroart's writing success has allowed him to return to his other love: He has founded his own independent label, CrowArt Records, which showcases some of his own music and produces CDs by a number of artist/friends. At long last, John Lescroart is able to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Good To Know

In our exclusive interview, Lescroart let us in on some fun and fascinating insights about himself and his life as a writer:

"First, it's Less-KWAH. Here's a tip -- don't have that name. Get a pen name that people can pronounce and remember. Just this Saturday, I gave a talk at a well-attended writers' conference. There were probably a hundred people in the room, and the talk went very well. Five minutes later, I was in the bathroom washing my hands and around the corner, I heard a guy tell another that he'd just heard the greatest talk by John le Carré. 'You know, The Tailor of Panama and the Smiley books? Good stuff. I'm going to go buy all his books.'"

"Second, I didn't have to quit the day job to keep writing. One of the most productive times in my early writing life was while I had a full-time job as a word processor in a law firm and also worked part-time at night, often working until 11:00 p.m. How did I do any writing, you might ask? Well, I did it between 6:00 and 8:00 in the morning, four pages a day, and published five books in six years. But because a) I was making some money doing 'regular' work and didn't have to be scrounging for coin and b) I was panic-stricken at the little time that was left in the day to write, I wound up becoming more efficient."

"Third, I don't wait on inspiration, and I refuse to acknowledge 'writer's block.' I simply sit down and put words on the paper. It's like being a carpenter -- writers build things. Carpenters don't wake up and say, 'Hmm, I'm not in the mood to drive nails today.' No, they go to work and do the job. It's not very romantic, but that's how I approach writing."

"If you have a good relationship, nurture it. The great god of Writing with a capital "W" isn't the only thing in life. It can be a great part and a big part, but it shouldn't consume you on a daily basis and shouldn't make your life miserable all the time. Try not to get nuts about the greater success of other writers -- we're really not in competition with other writers. We're only trying to outdo ourselves, to get better at our jobs. Go on dates. Spend some time outside (fishing is good, so is skiing, hiking, swimming, jogging). Stay in shape -- writing is a marathon. Don't drink too much. Have as much fun as you can."

Lescroart used to perform as "Johnny Capo" in a group called Johnny Capo and His Real Good Band. Although he no longer performs with that outfit, he still pursues music as the founder of his very own independent label called CrowArt Records. The first project on the label was Date Night, a CD of his own compositions performed by master pianist Antonio Castillo de la Gala. Followers of Lescroart's writing may recognize the in-joke in the album's title. As he explains on his web site, "Fans of Dismas Hardy will know that Diz and Frannie (Dismas's wife) set aside every Wednesday night for some time alone together -- it's their date night."

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    1. Also Known As:
      John Lescroart
    2. Hometown:
      El Macero, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 14, 1948
    2. Place of Birth:
      Houston, Texas
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English with Honors, UC Berkeley, 1970

Read an Excerpt

1

"Hello."

"Amy Wu, please."

"This is Amy."

"You sleeping? I wake you up?"

"No. Just lying down for a minute."

"So Friday afternoon, you're not at work?"

"No. Right. I'm not feeling too well. Who is this anyway?"

"Hal North. You remember me."

"Of course, Mr. North. How are you? How'd you get my home number?"

"You gave it to us last time, remember?"

"Right. That's right. I gave it to you. So how can I help you?"

"Andrew's in trouble again."

"I'm sorry to hear that. What kind of trouble?"

"Big trouble. The police just came and arrested him for murder. You still there?"

"Yeah. Did you say murder? Andrew?"

"Yeah, I know. But right. Two of 'em, actually."

"I'm sorry. Two of what?"

"What did I just say? You paying attention? Murders. His teacher and his girlfriend."

"Where is he now?"

"They took him to jail. I mean, to the Youth Guidance Center. He's still not eighteen, or it would have been the jail."

"Is that where you're calling from, the YGC?"

"No. Me and Linda, we got a benefit tonight, so we're still home for another two hours at least. We could probably be late to the thing and make it three if you..."

"I could be over in, say, a half hour."

"Good. We'll be looking for you."

Wu checked herself in the bathroom mirror. No amount of makeup was going to camouflage the swollen bags under her eyes. Half-Chinese and half-black, Wu had a complexion that was dark enough as it was, and when exhaustion got the better of her, the hollows around her eyes deepened. Now, between the crying jags, the lack of sleep and the hangover, Wu thought she looked positively haggard, at least adecade older than her thirty years. Why guys would hit on her looking like this, she didn't know, but there didn't seem to be a shortage of them, not since she'd started going out almost every night to find whatever the hell she was seeking in the four months since her father died.

Still, prepping herself to visit Hal North, she did her best to make herself presentable. It wouldn't do to look unprofessional. This was a legal matter, and she knew the potential client had made millions from his chain of multiplex movie theaters. At least he had been worth millions a couple of years ago, when Hal North's corporate attorney-a classmate from law school-had recommended Wu for criminal work and she'd represented his stepson Andrew for a minor joyride beef. She'd gotten him off with a fine and some community service. The fees at her hourly rate had come to a little under two thousand dollars, but when the judge came down with his wrist-slap judgment, North wrote her a check for ten grand. She wasn't sure if she should be flattered or insulted that he assumed he should tip his lawyer.

From now on, North had said in his forceful manner, she was his lawyer, that was all there was to it. Andrew, who'd been sullen and distant throughout the entire proceeding, even broke a rare smile and concurred. She'd told them both that though she was flattered that they liked her work, all in all it would be better if the family wouldn't need a criminal lawyer ever again. They both conceded that she probably had a point.

She lay down on the bed for two minutes, timed, with ice wrapped in a dish towel over her eyes. When she got up, she dried her face and started applying eyeshadow again, mascara, lipstick. Her hand was steady enough, which was a nice surprise. This morning, brushing her teeth after she'd gotten home from whatever-his-name's place a little after dawn, she'd dropped the toothbrush twice before she'd given up, called work for the fouth time in four months-very bad-to say she was sick, and crashed.

For a moment she considered calling North back and making another appointment for tomorrow. After all, the Norths had a benefit tonight-it came back to her now, they always had something going on-and they'd be in a rush. And she really did feel horrible. She wouldn't be as sharp as she liked. But hell, that was getting to be the norm, wasn't it? No sleep, no focus.

She hated herself for it, but she couldn't seem to stop feeling that it didn't matter anyway. Of course it mattered, she told herself. As her old boss David Freeman never tired of saying, the law was a sacred and beautiful thing. And Wu hadn't dreamt of a career in it for five years, then studied it for three, and now have worked in it for five only to lose her faith and become cynical about it. That wasn't who she was, not at her core. But it was who she acted like-and felt like- all too often lately.

The truth was-her bad angels kept telling her-that you didn't really have to be as much on your game as she'd always taken as gospel, since law school. She'd proven that clearly enough in the past four months, when she'd essentially sleepwalked through no fewer than ten court appearances. No one-not even her see-all boss Dismas Hardy-had alluded to any problems with her work. She could mail it in, which was lucky, since that's what she had been doing.

The clients were always guilty anyway. It wasn't as though you were trying to get them off, cleanly acquitted. No, what you did was you squeezed a little here, flirted with a DA there, got a tiny bit of a better deal, and everybody was generally happy. That was the business she was in. It was a business, and she'd come to understand how it worked.

Mr. North had said that his son had been charged with murder, and if this were true, it would be her first. But her experience led her to believe that it probably wouldn't turn out to be a righteous murder, charged as such. If it wasn't simply confusion with another person, at worst an accident, it was probably some kind of manslaughter. And of course the Norths would want to get an attorney on board. If Wu went over now, at least she would get a feel for the case, some of the salient details. It would give her the weekend to get her hands on some discovery, if it was available yet.

And if she could keep herself straight and productive for two whole days in a row.

The Norths' home was a beauty near the Embassy Row section of Clay Street in Pacific Heights. Old trees shaded the sidewalks on both sides, and most of the residences hid behind some barrier-a hedge or fence or stucco wall.

At a few minutes past four o'clock, Wu got out of her car to push the button on the green- tinged brass plate built into the faux-adobe post that held the swinging grille gate to the driveway. When she identified herself, she heard a soft click, then a whirr, and the gate swung open.

For all of the security, there was very little actual room between the gate and the house. Wu got inside, then turned left before she came to the garage. The driveway was quite narrow as it passed in front of the house, but widened into a larger circle near the entryway, and this was where she parked, the area deep in shadow. Getting out of her car, she could see blue sky above her through the trees and hear a steady shush of April breeze, but here in this small leafy enclosure, it was still. Briefcase in hand, she drew a breath, closed her eyes for an instant to gather herself, then went around her car, up the steps to the semi-enclosed brick porch, and rang the bell.

Hal North was in his early fifties, a short, wiry man who tended to dress, as he talked, loudly. Today he answered the door in a canary yellow, open-necked shirt that revealed a robust growth of chest hair into which was nestled a thick gold chain; white slacks; penny loafers with no socks. He hadn't aged one week since Wu had seen him last. He wore his thick black hair short and basically uncombed-the tousled look. His face was not-unattractive, slab-sided with a strong nose and piercing green eyes that sized Wu up afresh as he crushed her hand. "Thanks for coming," he said. "You don't look too sick." He backed away a step. "You remember Linda."

"Sure." Wu stepped over the threshhold and extended her hand. "Nice to see you again, Mrs. North."

Linda North was at least three inches taller than Hal and in another age would have been called a bombshell. Blond, buxom, thin and long-legged, she had always struck Wu as one of those freak-of-nature women over whom age and experience seem to pass without leaving a scar, a line, a trace. Though Wu knew that she was somewhere close to either side of forty-she'd delivered Andrew when she was just a year out of high school-in her jeans and tennis shoes and men's T-shirt, with her hair back in a ponytail, she looked about seventeen herself.

"Ellie's got some coffee going." Hal was already moving, shooing the women before him down the short hallway from the foyer into the dining room. "Ellie!" He pushed open the door to the adjoining kitchen. "In here, okay?" He turned around, motioning to the women. "Sit, sit. She'll be right in." He pulled a chair next to his wife and sat in it, threw a last look at the kitchen door where Ellie would presumably soon appear, then came back to Wu. "Really," he said, "we appreciate you coming out."

"We just can't believe this is happening," Linda said. "It's just a total shock. I mean, out of nowhere."

"You didn't expect something like this?"

"Never," Linda said.

"Complete blindside." Hal was shaking his head, his lips tight. "They kept saying Andrew wasn't a suspect."

"They always say that. You know why? So you might not think you need to have a lawyer with him." She paused. "So I'm assuming you let him talk to the police?"

"Of course," Linda said. "We thought it would help to be as cooperative as we could."

The couple exchanged a glance.

"Why don't we start by you telling me what has happened," Wu said, "starting from the beginning, the crime." She turned to Hal. "You said he's accused of killing his teacher and his girlfriend?"

Linda answered for her husband. "Mike Mooney and Laura Wright. They were in the school play and..."

"What school?"

"Sutro."

Wu wasn't surprised to hear this. Among the city's private schools, Sutro was a common choice among people with real money. "Okay, they were in the school play..."

"Yes," Linda said. "Andrew and Laura were the leads, and they'd been rehearsing nights at Mr. Mooney's house rather than the school. Then, the night it happened, somebody just came and shot them down. Luckily, Andrew had gone out for a walk to memorize his lines and wasn't there when it happened or he might've been shot, too."

Luckily or too conveniently, Wu thought. But she moved along. "And Andrew got arrested when?"

"They came by about twelve-thirty, one o'clock. School is out for spring break. And they just took him."

"I was at work," Hal said, "or I would have tried to slow them down, at least."

"Then it's probably better you weren't here." Wu was sitting beyond Linda at the table and could see them both at once. "When did the crimes happen?"

"February." Linda said. "Mid-February."

Wu's face showed her confusion.

"What's the problem?" Hal asked her.

"I guess I don't understand how two months have gone by and all that time, with the police coming by, neither of you thought Andrew was a suspect?"

"He said he didn't do it," Linda said, as though that answered the question. "I know he didn't. He couldn't have."

Ellie came through the door and the conversation stopped while she set out the coffee service. As soon as the door to the kitchen closed back behind her, Wu began again. "Mrs. North, you just said that Andrew couldn't have done these killings. Why not? Do you mean he physically couldn't have done them because, for example, he wasn't there? Does he have an alibi? I mean, beyond the walk he took."

"But he did go for that walk," Linda said. "There's no doubt about that. Besides," she added, "Andrew's just not that kind of person."

Wu's experience was that anyone-if sufficiently motivated-could be driven to kill. And Hal, she'd noticed, had stopped talking, was looking down into his coffee cup. "Mr. North," she said, "why'd they decide just now, after two months, and after they'd talked to Andrew several times? Did something new come up? Do you have any ideas?"

He raised his eyes to her, made a face. "Well, the gun," he whispered.

"That's nothing!" Linda's eyes flared and her voice snapped. "That's not even been definitely connected to Andrew."

Hal, muzzled, shut up and shrugged at Wu, who then spoke gently to Linda. "I don't believe I've heard anything yet about a gun."

She was prepared to answer. "This was early on, in the first week or so. The police asked Hal if we owned any guns, and Hal told them he had an old registered weapon..."

"Nine-millimeter Glock semi-auto," Hal said.

Again, Linda snapped. "Whatever. And when Hal went to find it, he couldn't." She turned to her husband. "But you know you're always misplacing things. It didn't mean Andrew took it."

Wu touched Linda's arm. "But the police think he did?"

Linda looked at Hal, who answered for her. "They found a casing in his car."

"So what?" Wu asked "Without the gun, you can't have a ballistics test."

"It was just a random piece of junk under the seat," Linda said. "It might have been there forever. It was nothing."

Wu tried to look sympathetic. "So the police didn't specifically refer to that when they came today?"

"No. They just said he was under arrest. They had enough evidence, they said. Something about a lineup," she added.

"He stood in a lineup? You let him do that? Who was trying to identify him?"

Hal North bristled. "I don't know. Some witness. Someone identifying Andrew, obviously."

"And wrongly," Linda said.

"Although," Wu phrased it gently, "as you say, he was there at Mooney's place. So someone might have seen him. Yes?"

"Yes, but..." Linda slapped at the table.

Hal reached out and put a hand over hers. "Look," he said to Wu, "we're not sure why any of this is happening. We don't think Andrew did this."

Linda slapped the table again. "We know he didn't do this."

"Okay, okay, that's what I meant," Hal said. He turned to Wu. "But they must have built a pretty impressive case against him if they got all the way to arresting him, wouldn't you think?"

Wu more than thought it. They had a case, and-since Andrew was the son of a wealthy and prominent man-it was probably a strong one. A gun in the house, a casing in Andrew's car, a positive lineup identification. What she had here, she was beginning to believe, was a young man who'd made an awful mistake.

"What are you thinking?" Hal asked her abruptly.

"Nothing," Wu said. "It's too soon. I don't know anything yet."

"You know he's innocent," Linda said. "We know that."

"Of course," Wu said. "Other than that, though."

By Sunday afternoon, when she met with Hal North again, Wu knew that they had a substantial problem. She also thought she had a solution.

This time it was just she and Hal in the large, bright, and high-ceilinged living room. Hal sat in the middle of a loveseat while Wu perched on a couch.

Linda had gone to visit Andrew and would be gone for at least two hours.

Wu had been lucky to get a couple of folders of discovery on Andrew's case from the DA's office before close of business on Friday. She had spent all day Saturday going over what the police had assembled. It looked very, very bad.

"What's so bad?" North asked.

Wu sat all the way forward on the couch, hunched over in tension. Her folders rested unopened on the coffee table in front of her. "Where do you want to start? It could be almost anywhere. They've got a good case."

"It looks like he did it?"

"Do you know anything beyond what we talked about on Friday?"

North shrugged. "I figured the gun was a problem, but I didn't know how they'd tied that to him. They didn't find it, did they?"

"No. Still no weapon, but there's plenty in here"-she tapped the folders-"to prove to me that he had the gun with him that night. You want me to go over it piece by piece?"

North waved impatiently. "I don't need it. If you're convinced, it'll be good enough for a jury." He slammed a palm against the side of his seat. "I knew he took it, goddamn it. I knew he was lying to me." Smoldering, North sat forward with his shoulders hunched, his elbows resting on his knees, head down. Finally, he looked up at Wu. "What about the lineup?"

"The man upstairs saw him leave just after the shots. Positive ID."

North slumped again, shook his head from side to side wearily, came back up to face her. "So he did it." Not a question.

"Well, maybe he wasn't taking that walk to rehearse his lines, let's say that."

"Jesus. This is going to kill Linda."

"She really believes him?"

"We're talking faith here, not reason. I thought that alibi story was like the ultimate in lame myself, but once Andrew came up with it, he had to stick to it. I just wish he would have invented something else, almost anything else." North shook himself all over, then straightened his back and threw Wu a determined, pugnacious look. "Okay, Counselor, what do we do now?"

Wu was ready for the question, and suddenly glad that Linda wasn't here. Hal would play much more into her plan that she'd reluctantly come to believe was the boy's best hope-albeit a defeatist and cynical one because it was based on the absolute fact of Andrew's guilt.

As a good lawyer with a difficult case before her-hell, as a good person-she knew she should have been consumed with getting Andrew off. That was in many ways the definition of what her job was all about. Give her client the best defense the law allowed. And myriad defenses-insanity, psychiatric, diminished capacity, some form of self-defense or manslaughter-were always available, a veritable smorgasbord of reasons that homicide could be if not forgiven entirely, then mitigated. But all of those defenses and strategies involved huge expense for her client's family, a year or more of her life's commitment, and tremendous risk to her client should she fail, or even not completely succeed.

On the other hand, assuming that Andrew was guilty in actual fact (and every other client she'd ever defended had been), Wu knew that she could get him a deal that would give him a life after he turned twenty-five years old, eight years from now. And this when the best result she could reasonably expect under the other various defense scenarios was ten years-and probably many, many more.

And so, though it was a terrible choice, she had convinced herself that, all things considered, it was the best possible strategy in these circumstances. "I think our primary goal," she said, "ought to be to keep Andrew in the juvenile system, not let them try him as an adult."

"Why would they do that? He's not eighteen. It's eighteen, right?"

"Right. At eighteen, it's automatic, he's an adult. But that doesn't mean the DA can't charge younger people. It's a discretionary call."

"Depending on what?"

"The criminal history of the person charged, the seriousness of the crime, some other intangibles." She took a breath, held it a moment, let it out. "I have to tell you, I've already talked to the chief assistant DA-his name's Allan Boscacci-and as of this moment, they're planning to file Andrew as an adult."

"Why? That makes no sense. This is his first real offense. He's a little hard to talk to sometimes, okay, but it's not like he's some kind of hardened criminal or anything."

"Yeah, but two killings, point-blank. Pretty serious. They're even talking special circumstances. Multiple murders, in fact, again, it's automatic."

"Special circumstances? You're not talking the death penalty?"

"No, you can't get that no matter what if you're under eighteen at the time of the offense."

North quickly cast his eyes around the room. "Okay, so what happens when he's an adult? Different, I mean."

Wu knew she had to deliver it straight and fast. If she was going to get North to agree with her strategy, she had to make it look as bad as she could for Andrew as quickly as possible. "A couple of major issues. First, most importantly, if he's an adult, life without parole is in play. If he's a juvenile, it's not. The worst he can get as a juvenile is up to age twenty-five in a juvie facility."

But North, not too surprisingly, was struck by the worst-case scenario. "Jesus Christ! Life without parole. You've got to be shitting me."

"No, sir. If he's convicted."

"Okay, then, he doesn't get convicted. Last time you got him off clean. It's not even on his record."

"Last time, sir, with all respect, he borrowed a car for half an hour. That's a long way from murder."

"Yeah, but I'm paying you to get him off. You can't do that, I'll find me somebody else who can."

Wu expected this-denial, anger, threats. She held her ground. "You might find somebody who'll say they can." She fixed him with a firm gaze. "They'd be blowing smoke up your ass."

"You're saying you can't do it?"

"No, sir, I'm not saying that. If that's your decision, I'll sure try. I might succeed, like I did before. Get him a reduced sentence, maybe even an acquittal. But nobody-and I mean nobody- can predict how a trial's going to come out. Anybody who says different is a liar. And the risks in this case, given just the evidence we've seen so far, are enormous." She reined herself in, took a deep breath. "What I can do, maybe, is avoid the adult disposition. If Andrew goes as a juvenile, the worst case is he's in custody at the youth farm-which is way better than state prison, believe me-until he turns twenty-five. Then he's free, with his whole life still in front of him."

"Okay, so how do you do that? Avoid the adult disposition?"

"Well, that's both our problem and our solution. To have any chance of convincing the DA at all, we'd have to tell him Andrew would admit the crime."

North snorted. "That I'd like to see. That's not happening."

Wu shrugged and waited, content to let the concept work on him. North did his quick scan of the room again, sat back in his loveseat, frowned. Finally, he met her eyes, shook his head. "No fucking way," he said.

"Okay."

"Shit."

"Yes, sir."

"I'll never get Linda to go for that. She'll never believe he did it."

"All right. But what do you believe?"

"I don't know what I believe. The kid and I never bonded really well, you know what I mean. I don't know him. He's all right, I guess. I love his mother, I'd kill for her, but the kid's a mystery. But whether he could kill somebody..." He shrugged, helpless. "I don't know. I guess I think it's possible. I'd bet he's lying about the walk he took. I know he took my gun, and he's lying about that, too. And why'd he take it if he wasn't going to use it?"

"That's a good question." Wu kept her responses low-key, not wanting to push. North, she was sure, would come to his conclusions on his own. As she had. At least that Andrew's situation looked bad enough to make the risks of an adult trial not worth taking. Still, in a matter-of-fact tone, she said, "They don't usually arrest innocent people, sir. No matter what you see in the movies." Then she added, "I'm not saying Andrew is guilty, but last time, if you remember, he started out saying he never took the car. Never drove in it at all. Didn't know what the cops were talking about. He swore to it."

"Just like now." North was slumped back in his chair, his palm up against the side of his head. "This is going to kill Linda," he said again.

"Well, if he really isn't guilty..." Wu let the words hang.

North shook his head. "Even if he isn't, how's a jury going to like the eyewitness and the gun and the motive? Jealousy, right?"

Wu had read the testimony of one of Andrew's friends, alluding to the jealousy motive-he evidently thought the teacher and his girlfriend were at least on the verge of starting-if not engaged in-an affair. But it was the first time North had mentioned anything about it, and the independent, unsolicited confirmation was a bit chilling.

Still, Wu restrained herself from trying to convince. She believed that forceful men like Hal North stuck far more tenaciously with decisions that they reached on their own. So she changed tack. "Here's the thing, Mr. North. He's up at the YGC now, they haven't filed against him as an adult yet, so practically speaking he's being treated as a juvenile. They have to hold what's called a detention hearing right away-I've already checked and it's tomorrow-to decide if they're going let Andrew go back home under your supervision."

"No reason they shouldn't do that."

Except for the fact that he's killed two people, she thought. But she only let out a breath and said, "In any case, as long as he's considered a juvenile, administratively they've got to have this detention hearing. That might give you some time, not much admittedly, to walk through some of these other issues with Linda, and even with Andrew."

He shook his head. "No, she'll talk to him, but maybe I can make her see what's happening."

Wu drew another breath and came out with it. She was going to need her client's approval before she took her next gamble, and this was the moment. "In light of everything we've been talking about here, Mr. North, I'd very much like to try to keep him in the juvenile system and avoid an adult trial if there's any way at all to do it, but that means he admits guilt right now. Immediately. Not maybe. I tell the DA he will admit and clear the case, in return they let him stay in juvenile court."

He sat stone still for a long beat, then nodded once.

Ambiguous enough, but Wu took it as an acceptance. "Do you think you can get your wife to go along with that? I want you to understand clearly that if Andrew admits, there won't be a trial, either in juvie or adult court. He'll just be sentenced. But the worst sentence he could get is the youth farm until he turns twenty-five."

"Eight years," he said. His shoulders slumped around him. "Eight years. Jesus Christ."

"That's the maximum. The actual sentence may be less. With the crowding at the youth work farms and time off for good behavior, he might not be as old when he gets out as when he'd finish college."

North may have been starting to see it, but the pill wasn't getting any less bitter. He rubbed his hand against the slab of his cheek. "Still, we're talking years."

Wu nodded soberly. "Yes, sir. But compared to the rest of his life. Even if I could plead him to a lesser charge as an adult-say second degree murder or manslaughter-he'll do at least double that time." She came forward. "And it would be in an adult prison, which is like it appears in the movies. But if we can get him declared a juvenile, which is not certain..."

"It seems to me we've got to do that. At least try for it."

"I can do it, but I'll have to move quickly." She consciously repeated herself. "You might want to talk to Linda first."

He gave it another few seconds of thought, then nodded again, spoke as if to himself. "Andrew's stubborn, but he'll come around when he sees the alternative. If he goes adult and gets convicted, Linda couldn't handle it. She really couldn't." Tortured, he looked across at her. "So what do we do?"

"I'm afraid that's got to be your decision."

He blew out heavily in frustration. "And when is this filing decision, adult or juvie?"

"Soon. It might have already happened, except that Andrew got arrested on a Friday afternoon and Boscacci is off on the weekend. But by sometime tomorrow morning, probably."

"Tomorrow morning?" His eyes seemed to be looking into hers for some reprieve, but the situation as they both sat there seemed to keep getting worse. "And once a decision comes down, then what? I mean, is it appealable or something?"

"You mean, once he's declared an adult? No. Then he's an adult."

"God damn." He shook his head, side to side, side to side. "This isn't possible." At last, he seemed to gather himself. "So if they decide he's an adult tomorrow, we're screwed?"

"Well, we go to trial, yes."

"But you might be able to talk to this guy Boscacci before then?"

"I'd call him at home today if you want me to."

"And that gives us a better deal?"

She phrased it carefully. "Less of a potential downside, let's say that."

"And that's definite. I mean, we go juvie, he's out at twenty-five?"

"Yes, sir."

"That's the best deal we can get, don't you think?"

"As a sure thing? Yes, sir, all else being equal, I do. But I don't want to hurry you in any way. This is a huge decision and right now Andrew stands presumed innocent. If he admits, that changes."

North shook his head, dismissing that concern. His stepson, with whom communication was so difficult, who'd screwed up so many times before, had done it again. He was a constant burden and strain, and now he was putting his mother through more and more heartache. But North couldn't yet admit out loud what he might believe, and so he simply said, "He might be innocent, okay, but tell me there's a jury in the world that's going to see it." A sigh. "At least he'll have a life afterwards, when he gets out."

Wu watched the second hand on the mantel clock move through ninety degrees, then spoke in a gentle tone. "So do you want me to see what I can do?"

A last, long, agonizing moment. Then: "Yeah, I think you've got to."

Sitting back on the couch, she let herself sink into the deep cushions. "Okay," she said. "Okay."

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2005

    This is the best book by Lescroart by far!

    If anyone who likes to read John Grisham among others. Give Lescroart a try! This truly gifted author can rival Grisham so well that I have read everything he has come out with. This has the best ending of any recent book I have ever read. Lescroart is the master of legal suspense!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2004

    A VITAL, ARRESTING READING

    Voice performer David Colacci gives a vital, arresting reading of John Lescroart's legal thriller 'The Second Chair.' As with previous works by this author there are dramatic courtroom scenes, and easy to relate to characters. His setting is the City by the Bay. Once again lawyer Dismas Hardy and his detective buddy, Abe Glitsky, are paired. Now Glitsky is the Deputy Chief of the Investigations Bureau and Hardy is managing partner in what seems to be a soon-to-be-successful law firm. Amy Wu, a promising young attorney in his firm, brings him a challenging and headline grabbing case. The son of an upper level San Francisco family, Andrew Bartlett, has been arrested in the double murder of his girlfriend and teacher. He's 17 and the District Attorney is determined to try him as an adult. Wu is equally determined to take the case to juvenile court. However, she needs some help to do this and so she turns to Hardy, asking him to sit second chair. Evidence against young Bartlett seems sound. But there is chaos to come when a string of murders chills San Francisco. Citizens are shot in what are apparently random killings. Thus both Hardy and Glitsky are pitted in challenges that may change their lives - one must try to save a client, the other must stop a psychotic killer. Lescroart just keeps getting better and better.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2003

    great legal thriller

    In San Francisco, Laura Wright and her drama teacher Mr. Mooney are killed in his apartment. Laura¿s lover, Andrew Bartlett, the father of her unborn child is arrested two months after the double homicide and charged with special circumstances murder. Amy Wu, an associate in the law firm in which Dismas Hardy is the managing partner, takes the case even though she believes her client is guilty. <P>With his parents¿ permission, Amy plea bargains for her seventeen year old client so that he will plead guilty if he¿s charged as a minor. She explains to Andrew that he will be remanded to a juvenile youth facility for eight years and then would be a free man. Andrew agrees to Amy¿s suggestion since the evidence against him is so overwhelming, but at the last minute he declares his innocence. Dismas takes a more active role in the case, seeking evidence, interviewing witnesses and acting as THE SECOND CHAIR in Andrew¿s upcoming hearing. <P>No doubt about it, Dismas Hardy is the twenty-first century¿s Perry Mason only more personable since the audience sees his interactions with his employees, friends, wife and children. THE SECOND CHAIR is a great legal thriller with a cast of characters easy to like. The intrinsic workings of the California judicial system specially when it comes to the rights of a juvenile is fascinating to observe. John Lescroart¿s latest work, THE FIRST CHAIR is definitely heading to the New York Times bestseller list. <P>Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2014

    Calling all writers

    Go to silverweed res1

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  • Posted June 2, 2010

    The Twist of the Plot is Evident from Early in the Book

    The plot is a little tedious the first third of the book, then picks up as more murders are uncovered. Unfortunately, as things develop it is all too apparent the victims are part of a revenge spree. The discovery of the precise jury connection is just too pat as one of the victim's ex-wives reveals that he was on a jury----deux ex machina is alive and well!

    Nevertheless, with all its weaknesses, I still enjoyed time spent with Dismas and Abe.

    While enjoyable, Lescroart's writing doesn't quite measure up to Michael Connelly.

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