John Lescroart’s THE KEEPER
Review by Tabatha Hanly
The story begins when Hal Chase enlists the help of lawyer Dismas Hardy. Hal’s wife Katie has disappeared from their home only a few days before, and when the case is transferred from Missing Persons to Homicide, Hal finds himself the prime suspect and the police and Katie’s family are prepared to believe the worst. Dismas recruits the help of an old friend, Abe Glitsky to work the case from the assumption that Hal is innocent; an unpopular view to say the least. Jumping at the chance to get back to work, sets to work, trying to ignore the old cop instinct screaming that the husband almost always did it.
The more Glitsky investigates the worse it looks for Hal. There is no physical evidence tying Hal or anyone else to the disappearance, and so the case falls back on motive and opportunity, and Hal’s motives just keep piling up. Then Katie’s body is discovered near the house and there doesn’t seem to be anybody who could want her dead except her husband, until Glitsky stumbles into another possibility. Hal works in the notoriously corrupt county jail where there have been a few too many ‘accidental’ deaths. Perhaps Katie’s death was linked to institutionalized corruption at her husband’s workplace. Perhaps she had found the evidence they needed to take action. Perhaps she was just one more victim on the jail’s list of ‘unfortunate occurrences.’
But all these possibilities mean little for Hal, who is in prison awaiting a trial that seems already decided because everyone except Dismas Hardy believes he killed his wife.
One of the best and most brilliant features of The Keeper is Abe Glitsky. As the novel’s primary investigator, Glitsky holds our attention for most of the novel. Glitsky is a former police officer who has set out on his own to investigate what looks like a hopeless case. But don’t let that mislead you, Glitsky is not noir’s jaded and dark private investigator who only works alone, chump. Nor is he the tough guy with personal demons who attracts every dirty-dealing woman in a ten-mile radius. Abe is an old cop, recently retired from his position as the head of Homicide, and afflicted with what looks like a terminal case of cabin fever. He does not set out on his own because he is a loose-cannon-cop who doesn’t play by the rules, he does it because he’s bored sitting at home. Glitsky reads like a real person: he has a wife he talks to regularly, he has children who must be picked up from school, and he has to wear an apron over his button-down shirt when he makes the family breakfast in the morning because a syrup-splattered investigator does not inspire much confidence. Real. Life.
Despite one or two thin characters, it is the real-people feel of the cast which engages the readers and keeps the book from becoming just another murder mystery. Of course the plot helps too. The book leaves behind the typical hunt-for-evidence-until-the-violent-showdown plot in favor of a character-driven and broader investigation. Glitsky’s witnesses are also more human than is convenient for a murder mystery: they have this nasty habit of forgetting details, not documenting their movements every day, and feeling uneasy in the presence of an investigator, even when they didn’t do it. So with a dearth of femmes fatales, nervous ticks, and ‘killer’s stares,’ the case has to progress by legwork and by following every avenue Glitsky can dig up.
It is through one of those avenues that Glitsky finds the most dangerous aspect of the case. He begins poking around in the jail’s unsavory records and unwittingly triggers a new round of deaths. Fighting against the bureaucracy which demands proof for what the entire city government knows, the jail’s administrators who don’t want anyone looking to closely, and his own instincts which tell him to charge ahead into danger, Glitsky is walking a dangerous path. And he still has to figure out who killed Katie Chase.
The Keeper is an engaging story with twists, turns, false alleys, and an unexpected solution! Recommended!
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Tabatha Hanly is a graduate student at Winona State University. She works as series editor for the Fiction Reboot and as graduate teaching assistant for the WSU English Department.