Reviewing The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly (Little & Brown, 2008). Be warned: this review contains spoilers.
Over the last month, I’ve been on a mystery-crime-thriller kick, mostly reading some of the Jack Reacher series (by Lee Child), and also the Harry Bosch and Lincoln Lawyer books by Michael Connelly. In my opinion, Connelly exceeds Child in writing quality, believability, originality of plot, insight into the legal/law-enforcement world, and the depth and development of characters. I don’t read a lot of fiction, so these novels have been a fun diversion for me during the holidays.
Of Connelly’s writings, I’ve especially enjoyed The Lincoln Lawyer (introducing Mickey Haller’s character) and The Black Echo (which introduced Harry Bosch). Prior to reading The Brass Verdict, I read The Crossing, a later cross-over book between Bosch & Haller. The Brass Verdict allowed me to go back to their first crossover and meeting, and the discovery that the two characters share the same father.
The Brass Verdict, the second Lincoln Lawyer book, follows on the heels of Connelly’s successful introduction of defense attorney Mickey Haller (played by Matthew McConaughey in the film—a fact which Connelly, humorously, plays on in the book). In between novels, not only had a movie been made about his exploits, but Haller had also wrestled his way through an addiction to prescription pain medication. One of the best aspects of the book is Haller’s first-person insights into the nature of addiction and the struggle of ongoing recovery.
Being a Mickey Haller book, Connelly gives a peek into the world of law, the courts, and the life and work of a defense attorney.
Fittingly, the novel begins with the words, “Everybody lies.” The questions that dictate the flow of the novel revolve around this statement: If everyone lies, what can be believed? Can I be believed? And how do you get by in a system — and really, a world — with so much deception? Haller had fallen into the depths of deceit through his addiction, shattering the most important relationships in his life, and inhibiting his capacity for relational closeness with anyone (including his young daughter).
So here we have a character who has swum in an ocean of deceit his entire life but who is wrestling with its implications in his profession and his personal life. Haller doesn’t just swallow the reality of deceit and run with it. Sure, he indulges in his own fair share of deception (like any good defense attorney). Privy to the mind of the narrator, readers are allowed to enter sympathetically into the reasoning behind tactical deceptions, while at the same time finding themselves in the frustrating position of being deceived by other characters in the narrative. At the end of the story, the pressure of living in this truth-deceit tension becomes too much for Haller and drives him to forsake his practice of law for good.
As always, Connelly tells a good story, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat throughout. The action moves quickly with enough twists, turns, and surprises to keep it interesting. Connelly’s insight into the legal system is education. As a reader, I value the insight into an important part of our countries functioning that often seems inscrutable. I also think that Haller’s character has a good amount of depth and personal struggle that he’s a believable three-dimensional character.
I would quibble that there were some glaring similarities between this storyline and that of The Lincoln Lawyer. Namely (spoilers): a guilty defendant that you think might be innocent, but who manipulates Haller and the attorney-client privilege to rub his guilt in the face of his attorney, followed by Haller’s own manipulation and the eventual downfall of the “bad guy.”
Overall, 4 stars out of 5.