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By Paula Tutman

Court is in recess.

John Lescroart, known for his smart, compelling legal page turners like A CERTAIN JUSTICE, THE 13TH JUROR and, HARD EVIDENCE to name just a few of his nearly two dozen novels—tips the scales in a new direction for his latest book, THE HUNTER, released January 2012, published by Dutton.

Private Investigator, Wyatt Hunt returns to the fingertips of the NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author in a not-your-typical-whodunit-and-why, but an emotional thriller in which Wyatt Hunt of THE HUNT CLUB and TREASURE HUNT reopens his painful past by running down a forty year old murder case.  And this time everything is personal.  Because the murder victim who’s seemingly taken up residence in the cold-case files is his own birth mother.

After reading THE HUNTER, you’ll never look at text messages the same again.  Here, they are not just quick, ubiquitous, annoying, innocuous tid-bits of communication.  Here they are the carrot dangled in a game of chess, hide and seek and catch me if you can.  In THE HUNTER the text messages are the bait and Wyatt Hunt is the hunted as he unwittingly does the dirty work for a mystery person trying to cover their own butt with his hide.

The mystery starts with an anonymous text message to Wyatt Hunt—“How did your mother die?”

Hunt is adopted and has never really questioned his biological history until that one moment.  “This sends him on a quest to answer not only that question, but to discover many other truths about his own background,”  Lescroart says of Wyatt Hunt.  “It is quite a different book from any of my previous ones in several ways:  First, there is no courtroom element.  Second, it is an intensely personal story, all about the development of Wyatt Hunt’s character.”

Who better to delve into his own past than a private investigator?  He’s already equipped with a high curiosity drive, stealth investigative tactics and a desire to find puzzle pieces that don’t fit or aren’t in the box.  Wyatt Hunt pulls out his PI toy box and goes to work.

Sometimes the thriller aspect of a novel has less to do with fear, murder and revenge.  Sometimes the thrill is simply the internal search for answers, and in THE HUNTER readers are taken along for the ride as Wyatt Hunt discovers who he really is.

Lescroart is a master spin-off artist, accustomed to giving his characters of various books a shot in the driver’s seat in different novels.  In this novel, the search is the star and Wyatt Hunt the co-star.  But faithful readers also get reacquainted with old friends like Devin Juhle, a homicide cop who’s not afraid to say he loves his work and the thought of his pension, Tamara Dade, Wyatt’s receptionist, assistant, secretary, chief cook, bottle washer and new love interest and her brother Mickey who share a bad childhood as common ground with Wyatt.  “All of these characters play a role in helping Wyatt get to the bottom of the mysteries regarding his mother’s death,” Lescroart says.  “Their motivations pretty much get back to their commitment to Wyatt – all of these people are with him through thick and thin.  I think their individual strong personal connections to Wyatt are among the reasons that readers tend to like him as well.  Wyatt’s a very real, charismatic, and extremely likeable character; people want to be on his team.”

But Lescroart admits this book had an element of risk.  First he steps away from the comfort of the courtroom and delves into technology.  A self admitted technological illiterate, he stretches himself by grasping something we all take for granted—the cell phone—and turning it into a tool of mystery and intrigue.  He also waltzes his characters out of their safe haven of San Fran and trots them and the reader into new territory.  And the scenery isn’t always pretty.  By introducing us to the inner workings of Child Protective Services, that no-win place you hear about and see on the news the reader will get to know the real thriller is in ‘the system’ while trekking through Wyatt’s past.  That past also leads to a grape Kool Aid moment as Lescroart weaves fiction through real life history and the story takes a detour through Guyana and the Jonestown Massacre and a huge money laundering scheme.

In the end Wyatt finds himself, finds love and will most likely find his way into a new book.  “What I enjoyed the most about him were the revelations that he came to during this search, the pain he had to endure, and his courage to keep going in the face of these obstacles,” Lescroart says.  And in the end he wants the reader to know, “that justice sometimes is possible.  That good can sometimes prevail.  That it’s worth it to strive for something noble and right.”  And sometimes a thriller can do more than just thrill.

To learn more about John, please his website.

Paula Tutman