Fans of legal thrillers will need no introduction to John Lescroart. The creator of the characters Dismas Hardy, Abe Glitsky, and Wes Farrell has sold more than 8.5 million books in the past decade; those books have been translated into 16 languages in more than 75 countries. His most recent book, Damage (2011), delivers what his many loyal readers have come to expect: another well-crafted tale featuring the characters they’ve come to care about. When we asked Lescroart, who will be a spotlight guest at ThrillerFest in New York this July, to share his favorite read of the past year, he offered the spotlight to an up-and-coming author for whom, perhaps, many readers still do need an introduction.
I got my first look at Justin Peacock’s Blind Man’s Alley when his editor sent me an early copy with an eye toward me providing it with a blurb. This is by no means an uncommon occurrence, as fully two-thirds of my fiction reading comes from sources like this. At no time is there ever a backlog of less than five books on my desk, and I must admit that sometimes reading these books is more of a chore than a pleasure. The very nature of these assignments dictates a hard-line approach—if the book doesn’t hook me in the first few pages, I put it down and that’s the end of it.
So as I picked up Blind Man’s Alley, I didn’t have exalted hopes. True, Justin Peacock had pretty well knocked one out of the park with his first novel, Blind Man’s Alley, which had made several “best book” lists and got nominated for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, but I had not read that book and didn’t have any idea what to expect with the next one. I needn’t have worried. From the opening page, with its poetic description of three men falling three hundred feet to their death, I was hooked. And this was even before I’d met Duncan Riley, a good guy protagonist (albeit a lawyer) who has all the heart, soul, wit, and humanity you could ever want, and who finds himself more and more deeply enmeshed in the dealings of real estate developer Simon Roth and his family. As the complications pile up, Duncan finds himself threatened on every level imaginable: professional, physical, personal, moral.
I have written something in the order of a dozen legal books and quite frequently, even in books I greatly admire, I will start to get a sense of where the book is taking me, how the case will play out, who the actual bad guy is. In Blind Man’s Alley, the twists and turns of the plot kept taking me by surprise. More than that, each of the characters—good and bad or a little of both—became individual human beings whom I felt I knew intimately and cared about deeply. This personal connection made it impossible to put the book down in the last hundred pages or so.
I put this book at the very top of the list of my favorite reads of the past twelve months, and I recommend it without reservation. It’s far beyond being “just” a mystery, or a courtroom drama. Reading Blind Man’s Alley is a life experience to be savored and returned to, and Justin Peacock a brilliant novelist to watch.