Book Review: "The Vig" by John Lescroart

Genre: Thriller

Rating: 3 Water Towers



Sometimes the only way to get out of paying “The Vig”…… to die.

“The Vig” can be thought of as the interest due on a loan. The difference between a bank loan, and one from the San Francisco Mafia is that the interest payment from a bank is only a few percentage points of the loan and can reasonably be paid back, while “The Vig” can be 10% or 20% of the loan–due every week.


And, how handy is this, the collector of “The Vig” comes to you.


This is the second book I have read from John Lescroart. The first book “Dead Irish” was a crackling good thriller, this one, by comparison is slow, muddled, and confusing (maybe this is how it is in the real-world of criminal investigation) saved by a very good first 50 pages and the return to crackling in the last 50 pages or so.

Dismas Hardy and Abe Glitsky are the main characters in this series.

Dismas is an ex-cop, ex-DA who dropped out of the mainstream after the death of his infant son, Michael, and subsequent divorce from his wife, and new friend (with benefits), Jane. Dismas has spent the last ten years tending bar at the Little Shamrock which is owned by his friend Moses McGuire. As a result of Dismas’s success in “Dead Irish” he now owns one quarter of the Shamrock.

Abe Glitsky is a San Francisco detective and Dismas’s best friend. Abe is a good (great) cop. He is tenacious, he follows the rules, and, in “The Vig” he is looking to leave SF and move to LA. The reason behind his decision to leave concerns San Francisco’s operation of the Police Department. The new rules and regulations they have put in place have made it difficult for the police to effectively do their job.

In “The Vig”, Dismas is tending bar when an old colleague, Rusty Ingraham, shows up to inform Dismas that a particularly tough hood, Louis Baker, is getting out of jail. Ten years ago, Louis threatened to kill the DA’s (Dismas and Rusty) responsible for his guilty verdict and incarceration in San Quentin. Rusty is scared, and tells Dismas he is going to purchase a gun. They also arrange phone calls every night so each knows that they are still alive.

The first night arrives and Dismas does not hear from Rusty. Dismas, being a good ex-cop, ex-DA, takes it upon himself to go to Rusty’s place (a barge in a “cut” in SF) where he finds a woman, Maxine Weir, dead on the floor and a trail of blood leading out the back to the San Francisco Bay.

Further investigation into the death of Maxine and the apparent death of Rusty Ingraham (the body was never found, but Dismas, via an experiment, found out that the body could have drifted quite far away and may never be found) turns up a host of possible suspects. This is where the book gets confusing as it introduces a host of new suspects and players with, sometimes, obscure connections to the victims of the double murder.

  • Johnny LaGuardia collects “The Vig” for Angelo Tortoni (the Mafia head).
  • Hector Medina is an ex-cop who is now head of security at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel.
  • Fred Treadwell has murdered his lover and his lover’s lover and is now accusing two SF policemen of assault.
  • Dido is the hoodlum boss of the “cut” that Louis left when he went to prison and has now has returned to.
  • Two young (pre-teen) hoodlums, Lace and Jumpup, follow Dido.
  • Ray Weir the husband of the dead woman.

As the book progresses, the list of suspects narrow as one by one they end up dead or in custody convicted of other crimes.

In a parallel love story, Jane is in Hong Kong on business, and Dismas, because of the threat of Louis Baker finding him at home, moves in with Frannie who is Moses McGuire’s sister. Frannie has had a crush on Dismas since she was younger and now that her husband has been gone for several months (he was murdered in “Dead Irish”) she, being 5 months pregnant with her husbands child, finds herself needing a man. Dismas is there and as almost always happens between man and woman one thing leads to another….

Even though I suspected who the killer was fairly early, the book returns to “crackling good” when Dismas figures it out and, in the last 50 fantastic pages, collars the murderer and justice is served. Excellent.

I enjoyed parts of “The Vig” while other parts confused and dragged. I am hoping that the next book in the series “Hard Evidence” is tighter. Dismas and Abe and the rest of the steady cast are unique and fully textured. Getting to know them better, and seeing how their lives unfold, should be very interesting.



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