There were too many characters to keep straight. Maybe that says more about me than the book. Hmmmmmm..... By the last two hours I didn't really care how it ended.
First, the narrator's voice was robotic; he did not pause for commas and periods. His phrasing and timing and vocal variations were all disorienting and took away from the already hard-to-tolerate story. I would not recommend this book for anyone not familiar with the series. Perhaps in print it would be better, but the narration is so wrong, it will give the wrong impression of the quality of the other books.
I love the Hardy series, but the characters and their characterizations in this one were either Lescroart's earliest renderings of them or a result of something having gone terribly wrong. The multiple (convenient) deaths which follow the first crime stretched credulity. The gratuitous violence involving the murders of two men and the apparent suicide of a "good" guy felt like shortcuts the writer used to build up a (not so convincing) momentum to justify the stupid vigilante climax. I am so glad to have not read these in order. Had I "watched" Dismas, Abe and Moses in this episode, it would have tainted their characters for me and I would not have read the later books.
One problem that kept popping up for me was whenever Hardy was about to do something unethical, he ran it by other people who had to tell him that it was unethical, who listed the legal reasons, etc.. Hardy is a lawyer, and I don't care how close to home the threats may have loomed, he did not need people to remind him of the risks he was taking. That felt like overkill and word padding.
I HATED the rendering of Abe Glitsky in this one. Again, had I read it before coming to "know" him later in the series, I would have been less interested in him. Here we see him as a weak, scared, easily-intimidated man who, by the way, was willing to bend the rules at the request of his father. The Glitsky of the later books would have felt and done none of this. Lescroart would have us believe that a man (whatever his mettle) is easily compromised and his nature almost destroyed by what happens on his job. In this book, Abe was serving detention, demoted from head of Homicide; his passive job in Payroll sapped his masculinity and his common sense. I think this is a little more telltale about the author than the character. The role played by Glitsky is a political/social statement: Take my job away, and the man/woman I once was no longer exists.
Hardy's client, John Holliday was a bigger character than the other characters in the book. To me, with a series and its recurring characters, this was a mistake. Lescroart gave Holliday a likable though ambiguous disposition and throughout the book we are led to believe that Holliday might be guilty. Those aspects of Hardy???s client should have been subordinate to aspects of Hardy and Glitsky. Holliday???s role should not have been bigger (in effect if not dialogue and presence). Holliday???s presence dominated the epilogue, also starring Glitsky and Hardy.
About the ending: The exoneration and the slaughter were stupid, unlikely. It seemed to reek of the kind of inexplicable carnage that is successful with a series like the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child. But in Child???s series, Reacher is the protagonist and simultaneously a virtual unknown. Contrasting the ending of Lescroart's "First Law" with the body count endings of a Lee Child novel puts Hardy et al in a silly light.
Lescroart got smart later on. In future installments, Hardy and Abe regain their footing and do more of what they do best. The dialogue improves, the plot and its pacing are right on. In "First Law," the scenes where the two families meet, eat and play were okay, though they lacked the zest of Abe's trademark growl and the zeal of Hardy's and Abe's upbeat spouses and children.
Another problem here is that the book contained too many clich??d problems of the times. Drug/alcohol addiction and recovery, resentful women once wronged, a May-December relationship, residual Vietnam-veteran era rage, marriage/remarriage, dead children, troubled children and second wives, bad cops, good cops, stupid cops, and accidental evidence. These elements are present in all the Hardy books, and the books are generally richer for their inclusion, but in this one, they felt added-on, planted for effect rather than written in as an organic part of the narrative. Lots of beating the reader over the head with the old ghosts to remind us why it was okay for good guys to lapse.
So, while not my favorite, and not a recommended volume, it was okay because it added to the history of the characters we come to know over several more books. I hope there are more Hardy/Glitsky tales to come. Glad this one and Betrayal are out of my way and I can sort of forget the bad impression they made.
Audiobooks allow book nerds like me to venture out in public and keep "reading."
Pre-Colacci (the current narrator who has gone back and done a few of the early books for us)...I'm really glad this wasn't the first book I picked up of John's - because I probably wouldn't have kept coming back. Listen to this book later - and you'll enjoy the story...but the narrator is really bad...I mean it...really.