Review: The Brass Verdict, Michael Connelly

A new book from Michael Connelly is an event for the crime fiction world. With a reputation built on a stack of bestsellers Connelly is without question one of the big dogs of the genre. Continuing to take a break from LAPD Detective Hieronymus Bosch, The Brass Verdict is the second in the series about cynical and troubled LA lawyer Mickey Haller who first appeared in Connelly's 2006 The Lincoln Lawyer.

I've mentioned previously that I was eagerly awaiting Connelly's Brass Verdict and James Lee Burke's Swan Peak. I'm still anticipating the delights of Swan Peak, but I'm sad to report that, for the first time ever, I'm a little disappointed in Michael Connelly's latest offering.

The Brass Verdict follows Mickey Haller as he inherits the caseload of a fellow lawyer who is gunned down in a parking garage. The inherited caseload fast-tracks Haller's recovery from a spell in rehab and re-entry to legal practice. The 'Lincoln lawyer' is back! Amongst the cases the murder trial of a powerful LA film mogul has the potential to make or break Haller. The breakage may be professional or it could be that Haller ends up outlined in chalk like his dead benefactor. As usual with Connelly there are a number of clever twists in the long tail of this case. Also present is Connelly's distaste for the usual suspects. That unholy trinity of crooked cops, slippery lawyers and wealthy rogues are all targets for Connelly's admirable ability to find dirt, corruption and hypocrisy under the nails of even the most carefully of manicured hands.

With an eye on fans of Bosch the blurb for The Brass Verdict hints at a Haller and Bosch double-act and for me this is part of the problem. Readers of Connelly will know Bosch as a powerful and dominant character. It's true, in Harry Bosch the cliches of crime fiction are writ large. A lonely, rebellious, complex, brooding and violent man stalking LA working out his demons and breaking rules in the name of justice. But I have no problem with cliche in crime fiction as long as the writing is strong and Connelly's is first class. There are few writers who can capture movement, speed and intensity in a narrative like Connelly. Reading a British 'police procedural' after an outing with Bosch is like swapping a Porsche for a bike with a flat tire. However, in giving Bosch a supporting role in The Brass Verdict Connelly makes, I believe, an unfortunate error. Bosch is a ghost in this novel - he's here and there, but has little substance, dropping in and out of the narrative, but never fully part of the story. Aside from a suspiciously 'tidy' denouement one wonders why Connelly decided to include Bosch in The Brass Verdict at all.

Typically Connelly produces a book that will keep you up in the small hours, thoughts of sleep and an exhausted tomorrow not intruding on what is usually an exhilarating experience. The Brass Verdict was just not up to the usual Connelly standard. Perhaps it was just me, but it just didn't have the same power and felt a little tired. The surprises weren't too shocking and I'm not quite sure how I feel about the main protagonist of Mickey Haller.

So the xetera verdict on The Brass Verdict is that, sadly, this is a below par offering from Mr Connelly. Don't get me wrong, it's still a decent read, but just not quite as good as some of his previous work. Here's hoping his next offering will be a return to form.


November 11, 2008 at 10:28:00 PM GMT John Self said...

"With an eye on fans of Bosch..."

Their fridges have dropped off but you can't fault their dishwashers.

November 13, 2008 at 10:00:00 AM GMT Stu said...

Very good!I'll admit it took me a second or two to get this!