The Rule of Law (Dismas Hardy Series #18)

The Rule of Law (Dismas Hardy Series #18)

by John Lescroart


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In “master of the legal thriller” (Chicago Sun-Times) John Lescroart’s electrifying new novel, attorney Dismas Hardy is called to defend the least likely suspect of his career: his longtime, trusted assistant who is suddenly being charged as an accessory to murder.

Dismas Hardy knows something is amiss with his trusted secretary, Phyllis. Her out-of-character behavior and sudden disappearances concern Hardy, especially when he learns that her convict brother—a man who had served twenty-five years in prison for armed robbery and attempted murder—has just been released.

Things take a shocking turn when Phyllis is suddenly arrested at work for allegedly being an accessory to the murder of Hector Valdez, a coyote who’d been smuggling women into this country from El Salvador and Mexico. That is, until recently, when he was shot to death—on the very same day that Phyllis first disappeared from work. The connection between Phyllis, her brother, and Hector’s murder is not something Dismas can easily understand, but if his cherished colleague has any chance of going free, he needs to put all the pieces together—and fast.

Proving that he is truly “one of the best thriller writers to come down the pike” (USA TODAY), John Lescroart crafts yet another whip-smart, engrossing novel filled with shocking twists and turns that will keep you on your toes until the very last page.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501115738
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 01/22/2019
Series: Dismas Hardy Series , #18
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 13,562
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

John Lescroart is the author of twenty-eight previous novels, including the New York Times bestsellers The Ophelia Cut, The Keeper, The Fall, and Fatal. His books have sold more than ten million copies and have been translated into twenty-two languages. He lives in Northern California.


El Macero, California

Date of Birth:

January 14, 1948

Place of Birth:

Houston, Texas


B.A. in English with Honors, UC Berkeley, 1970

Read an Excerpt

The Rule of Law

AFTER YOU MURDER someone, life is never the same.

Ron Jameson found himself thinking about this all the time; he couldn’t get over the before and after differences.

Before, he’d been a hardworking mid-level attorney, billing his mega-hours, fair to both clients and opponents, responsive to his partners, honest to a fault.

Before, he had been a compassionate yet somewhat stern father to his two children, a righteous man who both taught and modeled the importance of respect—for property, for their mother, for other political, social, and religious viewpoints.

Before, he’d lived a circumspect, modestly successful, controlled existence, neither particularly happy nor sad, vaguely content most of the time, occasionally a bit bored, going through the motions.

Before, he’d been half-alive.

That had left the other half.

After he’d murdered the man who’d slept with his wife, it had taken him a while to get his bearings. Most of that time was spent worrying about what would happen if he were caught, about what he would tell his children and his wife. How he could justify himself and what he’d done to those he loved.

Every day he had lived with the constant fear that the police would catch onto him, that in spite of his best efforts he’d left a clue somewhere, key evidence that would convict him. He worried about going to jail, about spending the rest of his life in prison.

He was the sole support of his family; how would they all survive?

After, above all, he worried about how he could have turned into the man who could have actually done what he’d done.

When the police had found the incriminating evidence—a shell casing from the same make and caliber of the gun he’d used—on the boat of Geoff Cooke, his former best friend and partner in the law firm, it had taken him a while to understand. Mystifyingly, Geoff had apparently then used the same weapon to kill himself, which meant that the case was closed.

The police no longer believed that he’d done it. He was no longer a suspect.

It appeared that his law partner had in fact killed the philandering bastard.

When in reality—he came to understand—it had been his wife expertly shifting the blame from him to Geoff, protecting him and their marriage and their family, shooting his law partner and convincingly making it appear to have been a suicide, then planting the incriminating shell on Geoff’s boat.

Which meant that both of them, husband and wife, were killers.

And after you murder someone, life is never the same.

The Rule of Law

“PLUS ÇA CHANGE, plus c’est la même chose.”

“I hate it when he does that,” Wes Farrell said.

Gina Roake nodded. “He knows that, and that’s about half the reason he does it.”

“Seven-eighths of the reason, to be precise,” Dismas Hardy said, “and precision is my middle name.”

“Dismas Precision Hardy,” Roake said. “It doesn’t exactly sing.”

“He just wants to rub it in that I don’t speak French.”

“That hardly qualifies as French,” Hardy replied, “since anyone with even half an education should have run into that phrase somewhere and figured out what it meant.”

“Well, I didn’t.”

“Tant pis pour toi.”

Farrell threw his hands up. “I rest my case.” Then, to Roake: “Maybe this isn’t going to work out after all.”

“It means ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same.’ ”

“Thank you so much,” Farrell said, “whatever the hell that means.”

On this late Tuesday morning in early January—a clear and crisp day outside—the three of them sat around the large mahogany table in the circular conference room of the stately Freeman Building on Sutter Street in downtown San Francisco. Because of its domed glass ceiling that rose to a height of fourteen feet above their heads, the space had earned the nickname of the Solarium. The room also featured a forest of assorted indoor plants at its periphery.

Dismas Hardy, the nominal host and managing partner of the law firm Hardy & Associates, leaned over and filled Farrell’s wineglass with Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon. “That should ease some of your pain. Meanwhile, I’ll try not to lapse into French again, since you’re so sensitive about it. Although, to be honest, I don’t seem to remember sensitivity as your most shining virtue.”

“That was before I was the district attorney. Now I’m sensitive about everything. Do you know how many sensitivity training classes I’ve taken in the last eight years?”

“Twelve?” Gina guessed.

Farrell shook his head. “Seventeen. I counted.”

Hardy snorted. “I don’t think I even realized there were seventeen things to be sensitive about. I mean, after gender and poverty and the homeless, the list shortens up real quick, doesn’t it? Oh, except, of course, women . . .”

“Watch it, buster,” Roake said, but leavened things with a smile.

Farrell swallowed some wine. “Add at least four subsets under each of those, you’re still not really close. You didn’t even mention animal rights, and those subsets, too. Grandparents’ rights. Left-handers’ rights. Fish.”

“Fish?” Hardy asked.

Farrell shrugged. “Probably. I tell you, the sensitivity epidemic is out of control.”

“Hey,” Roake said. “Our firm could have a motto. ‘Sensitive about everything.’ ”

“That would bring in a lot of work, that’s for sure.” Hardy sipped at his own wine. “But way to bring us back to the point, Gina.”

“Which was . . . ? Oh yeah, the new firm.”

“Are we really going to do it?” Farrell asked.

“Up to you,” Hardy said.

Ten years before, these three attorneys, plus one, made up the core of the firm Freeman, Farrell, Hardy & Roake. But then, in rapid succession, David Freeman had died; Gina Roake, who had inherited the building after Freeman’s demise, had decided to take a sabbatical to pursue novel writing full-time; and Wes Farrell had stunningly and unexpectedly won election to district attorney, which necessitated the removal of his name from the firm’s roster.

But two months ago Farrell had been defeated going for his third term as DA, and at his wake of a victory party, which Gina and Hardy had both attended, someone had floated the idea of reconstituting the old firm—or what was left of it.

Hardy, who was looking to reduce his hours in any event, had followed up in a low-key yet persistent way, and now here they were.

• • •

AN HOUR LATER, the three of them were in a booth at Sam’s Grill, celebrating their decision to go ahead with the firm’s resurrection. Assertions about his sensitivity notwithstanding, Farrell rather famously wore a themed T-shirt every day that always pushed the limit on that score. There were those among his political supporters who believed that this was what had eventually caught up with him and cost him the election. Warmed up by the wine in the Solarium and a preprandial martini here, Farrell was midway through buttoning up his collar, having shown off today’s T-shirt, which read: “Alcohol—because no great story ever starts with a salad.”

Someone knocked on the panel and threw open the curtain.

“Ahoy, commoners,” Abe Glitsky said by way of greeting. “I thought I heard familiar voices behind this shroud.”

“He’s a trained detective,” Hardy said. “Nothing escapes.”

“Former detective,” Glitsky corrected him, not that anybody needed to be reminded. All of the voices he’d heard behind the curtain were indeed familiar to him. Hardy had been his best friend since they were beat cops together nearly forty years ago. He knew Gina from her days with the earlier iteration of Hardy’s law firm. And he’d worked for Farrell in the district attorney’s investigative unit until only a few weeks before, when he’d retired as the new DA’s administration had gotten itself settled in.

Tall and broad, with a scar through both lips, milk chocolate skin, and blue eyes—his mother had been black and his father Jewish—Glitsky projected a threatening and, to some, even terrifying demeanor. Before he’d gone to work for Wes’s DA’s office, he had risen through the police department—patrolman, Robbery, Vice, head of Homicide—until he eventually became the deputy chief of inspectors. “A former detective, I might add,” he said, “now well and truly retired.”

“And how’s that going?” Farrell asked.

“He hates it.” Glitsky’s wife, Treya, appeared from behind her husband. “He’ll tell you he’s loving it, but that’s a lie. And I don’t like it so much, either.” Treya had been Farrell’s secretary during the eight years of his administration, and like her husband had resigned when her boss had left office.

“Well,” Gina said, “maybe our new firm can dig up some work for both of you. Would you like to join us for lunch and talk about it?”

Glitsky jumped at the invitation. “If it’s no trouble,” he said. Coming forward, he pulled one of the chairs back, stepping aside to hold it for Treya. “So,” Glitsky said as he took his own seat, “is it just me? Or does this little gathering smack of conspiracy?”

“Nothing so dramatic,” Gina said. “We’re just reconstituting the old firm. Or talking about it, anyway.”

“We’re thinking we could have more fun than just each of us working alone,” Hardy said.

“Lawyers looking for fun,” Glitsky said. “There’s something you don’t hear about every day.”

“We’re breaking the mold,” Farrell said. “It’ll be a brave new world.”

• • •

DIZZY FROM THE wine and more than a little breathless from the climb up the hill from Sam’s, Hardy ascended the eight stone steps that led to the doorway of the Freeman Building. Opening the brass-trimmed door to the circular lobby with its marble floor and upholstered wallpaper, he caught his breath for the next twelve steps up the ornately filigreed cast-iron spiral staircase that led to the first floor and its wide-open oval reception area.

Halfway across that space, on his way to his office, Hardy stopped again, made a face, and changed course. Seated behind the low wooden wall that delineated the workstation of his long-suffering secretary, Phyllis, sat another woman whose name, he was pretty sure, was Karen, the secretary to one of the junior associates.

He checked his watch. It was 2:30, long after Phyllis in the normal course of events would have returned from lunch—if she had taken one in the first place, which was a rare enough occurrence. Most days, loath to abandon her post, deeply committed to her sacred mission of controlling access to visitors to Hardy’s office, Phyllis ate from her little plastic salad container and drank her bottled water at her desk.

But she wasn’t there now.

Karen—Karen?—had a phone bud in her ear and was speaking with someone, and Hardy waited in front of her until she bid good-bye to whoever it was and looked up at him, stood with a smile, and extended a hand. “Hello, I’m Kathleen. Mr. Peek’s secretary?”

Hardy shook her hand. “Yes, of course, Kathleen.” His famous though sometimes AWOL memory suddenly kicked in. “Kathleen Mavone Wheeler, if I’m not mistaken.”

“Wow,” she said. “You got my whole name. I’m impressed.”

Hardy shrugged. “Old party trick. But what are you doing up here? Is Phyllis all right?”

“I really don’t know. Mr. Peek just asked me if I could handle the phones for a while and here I am. She had to leave unexpectedly.”

“There’s a first,” Hardy said. “But thanks for filling in. I appreciate your flexibility. Would you ask Don”—Mr. Peek—“to come down when he gets a second? Oh, and when I get calls, would you please buzz me on the intercom to let me know who it is before you patch them through? I’ve got my cell for my friends, but business calls I like a little warning. Good?”

“Of course.”


Less than a minute later, Hardy had just hung his suit coat over the chair behind his desk when he looked up, frowning at the knock on his door. Hadn’t he just told Kathleen-not-Karen that he liked a little advance warning before . . . ?

But no. He’d only mentioned phone calls. And he’d asked her to call Don Peek and have him come down, so that was almost undoubtedly who was now at the door. But if Kathleen stayed on, even for a short while, he’d need to bring her up to speed on how he liked things handled. The revelation struck him that Phyllis was more valuable to him than he might have realized. It brought him up short. But for now: “Come in.”

Don Peek, large and genial, with a horsey smile, opened the door and took half a second to acclimatize to the grandeur of the managing partner’s office, with its Persian rugs covering the hardwood floors under the two separate seating areas—one formal, one less so—the wet bar, the espresso machine, the wine cooler. Nodding approval, he came around to Hardy. “You wanted to see me?”

“I did. Do you know what’s up with Phyllis? She just left in the middle of the day?”

He nodded. “About an hour ago. Norma”—the office manager—“was still at lunch and I was the first office down the hall, so Phyllis came to me and said she had to leave right away: some crisis in her family.”

“In her family?”

“That’s what she said.”

What family? Hardy thought. He’d never heard her talk about any siblings, and both of her parents were deceased. “How did she seem?”

Don Peek shrugged. “Pretty much regular Phyllis-like,” he said. “No offense.”

“No. I know what you mean. No mention of when she might be coming back?”

“No. And I didn’t ask. Sorry.”

Hardy waved away the apology. “No worries. I’m sure she’ll let us know the second she’s able to. It’s just a little odd. No. A lot odd, actually.”

“Well, as you say, she’ll probably call. Meanwhile . . .” Peek made some vague motion back in the direction of his office and showed off his grin. “Billables await.”

“Go get ’em,” Hardy said. “Don’t let me keep you. Thanks for coming down.”

• • •

EITHER KATHLEEN HAD held all of his calls as Hardy had requested or he hadn’t gotten any. When, at a quarter to five, he woke up from the hour-long nap he’d taken on his office couch, he sat up and walked over to his espresso machine, got a cup going, then crossed to his desk and pushed the intercom button. “Yo, Kathleen,” he said. “I’m back in the land of the living. Did I get any calls during that little hiatus?”

“Nothing, sir.”

“Slow day on the prairie, I guess. And still no word from Phyllis?”

“No, sir.”

“Hmm. Is Norma in her office?”

A pause while Kathleen turned around to look. “Yes, sir.”

“If she tries to make a getaway before I come out, please ask her to wait for me.”

“Yes, sir.”

Straightening, he checked the mirror on his closet door, buttoning up his shirt and tightening the knot of his tie. The machine finished spitting out his two-ounce cup of coffee and he drank it down black. Going around his desk, he grabbed his suit coat and put it on, then once again noted his reflection in the mirror. Good to go.

For an old guy, he didn’t think he was doing too badly.

Hell, he thought, he was about to launch a new firm, or relaunch an old one. Either way, the idea excited him. He still had his energy and his wits about him, to say nothing of a wife whom he loved, two healthy grown-up children, and a small but select coterie of close friends.

In fact, he suddenly realized that, except for the somewhat disconcerting disappearance of Phyllis, his life was all but perfect.

And even the Phyllis situation, he thought, would probably . . .

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The Rule of Law: A Novel 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
bamcooks 11 months ago
*3-3.5 stars I used to have a rule to never jump into a long-running series but since joining NetGalley, that has been broken many times, including this one, my first Dismas Hardy novel. In the acknowledgements of this book, John Lescroart says he 'wanted to tie up several hanging elements from disparate past Dismas Hardy books' which probably made it a far worse book to make my first read since I had no clue what those hanging elements were. One thing I dislike about long-running series is that the crimes seem to be directed at the main characters themselves and that is true with this story where Hardy's law firm and friends are targeted by the new San Francisco DA and his cronies. I did enjoy the dogged police work of Beth Tully and her partner, even while risking the displeasure of those higher up in the system. I think there were some points Lescroart wanted to make in this novel: about the Dreamer/immigrant situation and about the importance of the Rule of Law that supports our legal system. As Dismas Hardy says, 'A few little changes and suddenly things start to fall apart. It's damn fragile.' So be ever vigilant! I received an arc of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley for my honest review. Now I'll have to go back and start the series from the beginning, won't I?
diane92345 More than 1 year ago
Dismas Hardy is back in the 18th series entry in Rule of Law. Dismas’ longtime secretary, Phyllis, is acting strangely. Perhaps it has something Phyllis’ brother, Adam, who has just been released from prison. After disappearing for a few days, Phyllis returns to work only to be arrested as an accessory to murder. The victim is Hector, who is a known human trafficker and pimp. Concurrently, Wes has lost his bid for reelection to District Attorney. The new DA has a grudge against Dismas due to his vocal support of Wes. There is a lot going on here. In addition to the two plots described above, there is the reforming of the original Dismas law firm plus the story ties up two previous novels’ loose ends. I wanted more about Phyllis and her legal issues. For a legal thriller, there are only minimal courtroom scenes. It reads more like a police procedural. This would be a four star read for readers that have read every book in the series. However, as a standalone, Rule of Law only rates 3 stars. Thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
TropicalDelusions More than 1 year ago
The Rule Of Law – John Lescroart I was fortunate to receive this book as an Advance Reader Copy from Netgalley, in exchange for an objective review. Dismas Hardy and his colleagues are preparing to resurrect their old law firm now that contender Ron Jameson has recently unseated Wes Farrell and assumed the role of District Attorney for the California district. Jameson, in assuming the office, has started a very regimented administration, quite unlike the relaxed office of Farrell, and seems to have it in for Dis and his colleagues. Phyllis, Dis’s secretary and longtime employee has been missing work with little explanation and this has Dis worried. Suddenly, she’s arrested by the DA’s office for accessory to murder, and Dis immediately steps up to defend her, and learns some very interesting information about his quiet, reliable secretary. Meanwhile the alleged shooter, a young immigrant girl, supposedly commits suicide in prison, allowing the DA to close the case in triumph. But the homicide inspectors investing the case aren’t quite sure it was that simple – and they’re not quite sure about the new DA either. One of them suspects he is a killer. Thus begins the newest thriller with Dis at the helm, as he and his team attempt to investigate the possibility that Jameson was part of a homicide several years ago, while trying to vindicate Phyllis from a trumped up charge. Meanwhile Jameson and his team work just as hard to bring Dis & Wes’s alleged misdeeds to light, culminating in an surprising sequence of events that will leave you shaking your head and asking for more! This book does a nice job of tying up some loose ends from prior Dis Hardy adventures, as well as illustrating the sanctuary city of San Francisco, and how a modern-day underground railroad works to assist immigrants to safety. Whether you’re a fan of Dis, or you pick this book up as a standalone, it is a great read!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love Dismas. Don’t ever stop writing,
lady_longhorn More than 1 year ago
I've been reading John Lescroart since book 1 and have enjoyed the series and characters as they develop novel to novel. This go-around, we are treated to Dismas Hardy's secretary, Phyllis. Although I found her character's political opinions and social commentary irritating, it did not distract too much from the narrative. This book ties up loose ends from previous novels. Basically it's a battle of the wits and a race to the finish line between Dismas Hardy and newly elected District Attorney Ron Jameson, each side with clandestine plotting meetings and investigators on the payroll to see who can prove the other is a murderer first. Throw in a parolee brother who is nothing but trouble, a couple more bodies to account for, an underground railroad for illegal immigrants, (got all that?) and we have ourselves a heck of a novel. I'm surprised Mr. Lescroart wrapped it up with a red bow at the end so we can start novel #19 on a clean slate, so to speak. Satisfying for long time enthusiasts, probably more than a little confusing for the first-time reader (pssst: start with book #1). Will be waiting until the next offering in the series...
Loy3 More than 1 year ago
Thank you net galley for the book! I have read all the Dimas Hardy books and this one did not disappoint. Dismas Hardy, Abe Glitsky, Wes Farrell and the rest of the gang return. Wes has lost the District Attorney election to Ron Jameson who is gunning for Dismas, his firm and anyone who is involved with him. DIsmas Hardy’s secretary Phyliss is arrested for helping a murderer get away, thinking she was helping a poor illegal immigrant. She is a pawn to help bring down everyone associated with the old district attorney, Wes Ferrell. The writing is excellent, the action builds and things happen. I did feel that reading previous books helped in my enjoyment of the book. I really like this series
MonnieR More than 1 year ago
In the years I've been posting book reviews online, I've read just two of the author's 18 books featuring attorney Dismas Hardy: "Poison" last year, and "Fatal" in 2017 - and loved them both. This one's very good as well, but I have to say I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the other two. I suspect it's because, as the author notes in the acknowledgements, his intent was to "tie up" loose ends from past books rather than conjure up new plots. And while I had no problem following what was happening even though some of those ends didn't ring any familiarity bells for me (another way of saying this book stands alone well), the parts related to years-earlier events just didn't seem quite as interesting to me than the current goings-on. On the other hand, the whole gang is back together (well, except for a couple who bit the dust in previous happenings) and Dismas is trying to put the old law firm back together again. On the other side of the fence is new District Attorney, one who clearly has a beef with Dismas and his crew. Noteworthy to me, by the way, is that readers learn early on who the bad guys and gals are and what they've done - then they get to follow along as the Hardy boys and girls figure out what's going on. At the beginning, the firm's longtime, ultra-loyal secretary, Phyllis McGowan, suddenly takes off work for several days with no explanation. When she returns, she remains tight-lipped - until, out of the blue, the police rush through the door with a warrant for her arrest in connection with the murder of a man who had made a nice living smuggling women into the United States. Needless to say, Dismas becomes her attorney of record, and he quickly learns there's much more to his secretary (and her just-out-of-prison brother) than he ever thought possible. Making an example out of Dismas's secretary, though, is only the tip of the iceberg for the new D.A., who is determined to dig up dirt on that years-earlier case that will take down Dismas and his law partners once and for all. The ending didn't come as a total surprise to me, but it did wrap things up and clear the decks for a whole new chapter to begin next time around. And to be sure, I'm eager to read it. Meantime, many thanks to the publisher, via NetGalley, for the opportunity to read and review this one. Good job!
MatteaLC More than 1 year ago
I feel so lucky to have received an ARC for one of my favorite authors. I have read all of his novels and this one didn’t disappoint. A revisit of two previous storylines, all the loose ends were tied up and relegated to the closed case files. We become better acquainted with his loyal secretary Phyllis, who is implicated in the murder of a sex trafficker. His usual cast of characters appear to clear her name, while looking for the real killer. Dismas Hardey revisits the familiar Little Shamrock, my father’s favorite lunch destination, of which he is part owner. Abe Glitsky, now retired, manages to insert himself into the parallel investigations in the cold cases that are reopened. Dismas Hardey manages to reassemble former partners into the firm to provide the reader with a compelling mystery that had me smiling with satisfaction at the end. Thank you to NetGalley and John Lescroart for the opportunity to read another great story. Here’s hoping you’re well on your way to your next publication.
CathyGeha More than 1 year ago
The Rule of Law by John Lescroart A Dimas Hardy Novel #18 I usually don’t step into a series on book eighteen but for some reason did just that with this book and had no trouble at all following the story. In fact, it may have made me want to go back and begin with book one of the series and read them all! As mentioned in the blurb about the book The long-time employee of Dismas Precision Hardy (and there is a story I want to hear in the future) has gone missing. He begins to worry early on as her disappearance is so against her normal pattern of behavior. So, he decides to play sleuth and find out what he can about her whereabouts only to have her show up in a few days and immediately be taken into custody by the police. Since he is a lawyer, doesn’t believe she is guilty and has a feeling it is payback of some sort he dives into clearing her name. There is murder and prostitution and human trafficking and political intrigue and a major cover-up and good friends dealing together with issues as they no doubt have done before in the previous books. I believe the author was tying up threads he felt were left hanging from previous stories but they all flowed seamlessly as the story unfolded. This book did bring to light an intriguing underground railroad that I was unaware of and when I looked it up online learned even more. This was an interesting and intriguing story that left me wondering if it could have really happened but as I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the characters I didn’t worry too much about the details. Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books – Simon & Schuster for the ARC – This is my honest review. 4 Stars
Anonymous 12 months ago
I think the author is getting bored.
Anonymous 12 months ago
Another great book in the Dismas Hardy Series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This supposed novel is a plea for amnesty for ILLEGAL ALIENS , THE code name of undocumented persons is PC joke !