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the brass verdict

30 october 2012

I wasn't as impressed with The Brass Verdict as with some of Michael Connelly's other recent crime novels. Some of it is formulaic, and much of the rest is preposterous. There's a good initial hook (lawyer murdered, Mickey Haller takes over his cases, which contain numerous deadly booby-traps). But once we get the action going, there's a lot of sparking but little direct current.

The Brass Verdict is the first novel to pair Mickey Haller (the Lincoln Lawyer) with Harry Bosch, Connelly's venerable detective-series hero – and at the end, the two are revealed to be brothers. They're on different sides of the justice world (sleazy defense lawyer, rogue cop) but they're brothers figuratively as well as literally: both have a sense of the justice that is deeper than technical justice, and neither minds bending the rules in pursuit of it.

The problem with The Brass Verdict is that Haller bends rules pointlessly and with such insouciance that you stop thinking of him as a loose cannon and start thinking of him as mentally defective. He hires a client (67) to drive his Lincolns – I'm pretty sure that's a conflict of interest and also a really bad idea, given that the client is a drug addict that Haller doesn't know. (The move is explained by Haller's empathy with a guy trying to kick the same addiction that Haller kicked, but seriously, wouldn't the experience of addiction cause you to be very wary of random addicts, let alone reluctant to give them the keys to your cars?)

Later on, Haller is defense lawyer during a trial, and learns of jury tampering. Rather than reporting it, he decides to take an approach to circumventing it that he must have found in a children's novel, because its chances of working (and thereby avoiding his disbarment for life) are laughable (319). And then after lecturing us at length about how discovery rules forbid introducing surprise evidence, Haller introduces surprise evidence (335).

Legal thrillers / crime novels like The Brass Verdict do not depend on very strict realism, but they do depend on not violating terms they've just set up, or the basic principles of plausibility. This one strains its own definitions of credulity.

Connelly, Michael. The Brass Verdict. New York: Little, Brown [Hachette], 2008.