SYNOPSIS: Mickey Halloran, the lawyer Connelly introduced in the "The Lincoln Lawyer," returns to practicing law after a year spent fighting drug addiction. Instead of having to struggle to rebuild his practice, Mickey gets an easy gift of 31 clients when the lawyer who handled those cases is murdered. One of the clients is the high-profile type, Walter Elliot, head of a major film studio, and Elliot is going on trial for the murders of his wife and her lover. So there are two murder mysteries going on here, and as in any of today's standard thrillers, you know that somewhere along the line those two murders are going to get linked up.
REVIEW: This was to be my last Michael Connelly book. I've not been entirely satisfied with any of his books since the magnificent 'Angels Flight,' and with each successive book it's become less about satisfaction and more about irritation. The culmination of my disenchantment came with 'The Lincoln Lawyer,' a book I consider to be highly overrated (but I've felt that way about the last several Harry Bosch titles as well). That's the last Connelly book I paid for; 'The Brass Verdict' I retrieved from the library, and my expectations could not have been lower.
Maybe that was all I needed to do, was to lower my expectations because while I don't think 'The Brass Verdict' ought to win any awards, it's a pretty good thriller. Yes, Connelly still has those twists and turns that have patently obvious explanations (did any reader really not know what his intentions were regarding Eli Wyms and the GSR tests? Did any reader really not know who was behind the 'killer' who came after Mickey in the garage?); yes, he eschews character development other than the protagonist's; yes, I still wonder why he's considered a great writer when any debut author would be excoriated for producing sentences such as: "Bosch smiled glibly and shook his head." Smiled glibly? Can you say 'yanked from my suspension of disbelief?' I am more charitable about the reason for the constant misuse of 'preemptory' when Connelly means 'peremptory.' Presumably that will be corrected in later editions. Nevertheless, it's distracting and it's difficult to place the author in the company of truly great writers when I encounter these things in his work. On the plus side, not once did I trip over any of the purple prose that disgusted me in 'The Closers.'
Missing from this book is the ambience, the atmosphere of a dark LA that Connelly internalized so wonderfully in the early Harry Bosch character. But it's hard to create ambience when the action is the interior of a Lincoln, eh? Unless you're writing porn anyway. What Connelly nails to perfection is the way Halloran handles his cases, his legal reasonings, his cold pragmatism when it comes to throwing indigent clients into the 'dog pile.' And the pacing? Stellar, with only one small breakdown in the latter portion of the book and from which Connelly quickly recovered.
Some readers expressed unhappiness for how small a part Harry Bosch played in this book, but that's one area in which I disagree. This is not a detective story, it's a legal thriller, and Bosch did play a pivotal role. However, it could just as easily have been a new character rather than Bosch, because other than the gimmick of Bosch and Halloran being half-brothers, there was no need for the cop role to be filled specifically by Bosch. It was that gimmick that got me to read the book in the first place, because I was pretty much done with Connelly. Now, I'll probably read the next one but I'm not ready to start sinking my hard-won dollars into his titles again. Not yet. Why not? Because Connelly cheated the reader, just a little, but it was still a cheat, when he let Mickey use information in the denouement, information that had not been made available to the reader. That I had guessed early on who was behind the jury tampering is beside the point. I've come to know Connelly's tricks too well. And tricks, rather than plot devices, are what they seem like to me.
Overall, this is one of those books that many people would characterize (or damn) as a good beach read. It's a fairly good thriller that comes close to earning that prized descriptor, 'page turning.' Has it won me back into the ranks of the Michael Connelly fan club? Does it put him back at or near the top of my list of favorite crime fiction writers? No, but it does give me hope that one day he will find his way back to the quality of his earlier books.