(Reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky FEB 25, 2008)
“You’re a soldier. You’re fighting the good fight. You’ve been through battle, betrayal, brain injury…. You beat every other one of [them], and now you’re standing up to this one. That’s the message. Stick with it. Those jurors are going to try to be objective … but they’re twelve unpredictable human beings.”
John Lescroart’s Betrayal is the engrossing story of two men who meet in Iraq in 2003 and later become bitter enemies. Because of a bureaucratic snafu, Second Lieutenant Evan Scholler and his eight men find themselves on convoy duty for a military contractor named Jack Allstrong. Scholler and those under his command are forced to risk their lives to protect the interests of the venal, amoral, and aggressive Allstrong, who arrived in Baghdad nearly penniless and, months later, became a multi-millionaire by cheating and lying. To people like him, “basically the entire country’s for sale.” Scholler soon becomes a friend and drinking buddy of Ron Nolan, Allstrong’s senior official and chief troubleshooter, who is making twenty thousand dollars a month, tax free. The persuasive and charismatic Nolan involves Evan in some nasty activities that are both illegal and dangerous. In addition, he finds out that Evan is desperately trying to reconnect with his estranged girlfriend, Tara Wheatley, whom he left back home. On a visit to the states, Nolan decides to do whatever he can to win the beautiful Tara for himself. Ron and Evan are on a collision course to disaster.
Lescroart constructs his book with great skill, telling a complex but seamless tale that begins in 2003 and concludes in 2008. This is a powerful and creative work that has elements of a political thriller, courtroom drama, murder mystery, and romance. The scenes that take place in Iraq provide a harrowing look at the chaos, corruption, and rampant violence that makes this country one of the most dangerous places on earth. In addition, we experience the terror that our soldiers feel every time they go on patrol, and the misery that afflicts the unfortunate men and women who return home from their tours of duty with traumatic brain injury and/or post traumatic stress disorder.
The protagonist, Lieutenant Scholler, is a deeply flawed individual who lacks good judgment and common sense, especially while under the influence of alcohol. Ron Nolan is a self-centered and vicious sociopath who takes full advantage of Scholler’s naiveté. Dismas Hardy and Abe Glitsky, the central characters in a number of Lescroart’s previous novels, make brief appearances. It is Hardy’s role to help untangle a complex web of deceit that may allow the guilty to go free and the innocent to suffer unjustly. As Dismas eloquently states, “The moral rot that festered in Iraq and in the halls of power both here and abroad had poisoned the communal well.” It is unjust but realistic that such villains as Allstrong and Nolan can break the law with impunity and profit from their misdeeds.
A minor flaw is Lescroart's penchant for heavy-handed editorializing. For instance, he makes a point of dwelling on the substandard conditions in Walter Reed, where many veterans are sent to recuperate. It is clear in these passages that the author is expressing his personal opinion in a none-too-subtle manner. This quibble aside, Betrayal powerfully demonstrates the terrible toll that war invariably takes on the men and women who serve in combat as well as on their loved ones who wait in fear for bad news that they pray will never come. All in all, this is a compulsively readable novel with an intense, shocking, and thought-provoking conclusion.
- Amazon readers rating: from 65 reviews
Chapter excerpt from Betrayal at the author's website
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Sunborn (1981)
Auguste Lupa Series:
Dismas Hardy / Lt. Abe GlitskeySeries:
- Dead Irish (1989)
- The Vig (1990
- Hard Evidence (1993)
- The 13th Juror (1994)
- A Certain Justice (1995)
- Guilt (1997)
- The Mercy Rule (1998)
- Nothing But the Truth (1999)
- The Hearing (2001)
- The Oath (2002)
- The First Law (2003)
- The Second Chair (2004)
- The Motive (2005)
- Betrayal (2008)
- A Plague of Secrets (2009)
- Damage (2011)
- The Ophelia Cut (May 2013)
Wyatt Hunt / Insp. Devin Juhle:
Gina Roarke / Insp. Devin Juhle:
- The Suspect (2007)
Music by the author:
- As the Crow Flies (2003)
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- Official website for the John Lescroart
- Book Reporter review of The Hearing
- MostlyFiction.com review of The Suspect
- Reading Guide for Betrayal
- MostlyFiction.com review of A Plague of Secrets
- MostlyFiction.com review of Damage
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About the Author:
John Lescroart (less-kwah) was born in 1948 in Houston, Texas. John wrote his first novel in college and the second one a year after he graduated from Cal Berkely in 1970. However, he did not publish his first book until fourteen years later. His very first novel Sunburn became a reality when a former high school teacher's wife entered the book, in John's name, to the Joseph Henry Jackson Award given by the San Francisco Foundation for Best Novel by a California author. His book beat out 280 other entrants for the prize, including Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire. Sunborn was published in paperback four years later.
Until he was 30, he hoped to make it as a musician and up to that point he concentrated more on his music than his prose. After 30, he switched his priorities. He supported his writing with a various day jobs including time as a computer programmer, an Ad Director, moving man, house painter, bartender, legal secretary, fund-raising executive and management consultant. At one point, he he enrolled in the Masters Program in Creative Writing at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. However, one of his temp day jobs ended up making a lucrative offer and he and his wife never moved to New England.
About a year and half later, still squeezing writing in between day jobs, his wife encouraged him to try to publish some of his older manuscripts. He submitted Son of Holmes and six weeks later he had a hardcover book deal. For the next seven years, he was publishing but continuing to work his day jobs. Then at the age of 41, he contracted spinal meningitis and nearly died. After his 11-day battle, he quit his day job and moved back to Northern California.
He is now a New York Times bestselling author whose books have been translated into 16 languages in more than 75 countries. He still plays guitar and has written over 500 songs and owns a record label.