Friday, 24 September 2010


When DNA evidence frees a convicted child-murderer from death row, the LA district attorney approaches defense lawyer Mickey Haller to re-prosecute the case, and Haller accepts this extremely unlikely request for two reasons. He gets to work with his ex-wife as co-counsel, and he gets his half-brother, Harry Bosch, as his investigator.

From this unlikely, but compelling scenario, Connelly weaves a courtroom drama that always threatens to go over the edge into a full-blown thriller, but which might better be described as a mood piece. Because what he does is map out with great precision and subtlety both the mind-set of a serial killer but also the mind sets of those prosecuting, investigating, and defending him. And he sets up a distinct lack of sympathy which makes itself felt as the story plays out to its climax.

Behind all of this as well is the Haller-Bosch family story, which becomes more closely intertwined as the two men's daughters, half-cousins, meet up. It's impressive the way Connelly has marked out yin and yang for his two characters, opposites reflected in the same mirror, and the way he uses Haller's ex, Maggie McPherson, as a sort of conduit between their personalities. He also reflects those relationships in the story of the murdered girl, her sister, and her family, a deft touch with the sub-plot which adds the bleakness to an already dark story.

But what makes this novel work so well is Connelly's fluency for the politics and the rituals of the courtroom, his reporter's sharp eye and ear, and his ability to understand, and suggest the motivations of the various players without having to delineate them literally. This includes witnesses and politicians as well as as cops, judges and lawyers and the way they interplay in his work is the engine which drives the rest. Some fans may be disappointed with the seeming lack of resolution in the ending; much of the 'action' occurs off-stage, as it were, but it's a climax driven by personalities, by the realities of the crime and system, rather than by thriller convention. It's this willingness to take chances within the framework of his series characters that has always let Connelly transcend genre stereotypes, and it is what makes this novel so compelling.

The Reversal by Michael Connelly Orion Books, £18.99, ISBN 9781409114390

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