Posted by: Jeanie F | October 6, 2010

Guilty Pleasures

Here in Southern California, October is known for heat and scorching, dry winds called santa anas, the cause of the wildfires you hear so much about. It has been highly unusual to wake up three days in a row this week to find it raining – with more in the forecast!

Yesterday it just so happened that Michael Connelly’s newest book, The Reversal, was released and arrived on my Kindle (I had pre-ordered it as soon as I learned of its release). I’m not normally much of a crime fiction reader, but there are two authors in this genre whose work I can’t resist – Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly (and just for fun, in The Reversal, Connelly gives a nod to Lehane with a coy reference to the movie, “Shutter Island”). The combination of the rainy day and the latest from Michael Connelly was too much to resist. I cancelled all appointments, brewed a pot of my favorite cranberry-apple tea, and settled in for a decadent day with a just-for-fun book. Heaven!

For those of you unfamiliar with Connelly’s work, he is an ex-reporter for the Los Angeles Times and bases all of his novels in Los Angeles. He tends to use one of two protagonists – Harry (Hieronymus) Bosch, a street-smart ace detective for LAPD, and defense attorney Michael (Mickey) Haller, best known for practicing law out of the back seat of his Lincoln Continental. In The Reversal, Connelly has brought these two together in a legal courtroom thriller. The District Attorney has convinced Haller to switch sides temporarily and come on board as an “independent prosecutor,” re-trying the 24-year old case of a child murder. The killer, Jason Jessup, was found guilty in 1986 and sent to prison, but new DNA evidence has caused the case to be opened again. Haller selects Bosch to be his investigator – a smart choice – and his (Haller’s) ex-wife, “Maggie McFierce,” to be his co-counsel. This “dream team” sets out to reconstruct the evidence, relocate the witnesses, and find a way to negate the strength of the DNA sample (not the convicted’s) found on the murdered child’s dress. If you’ve been a reader of Connelly’s previous work, you never doubt that they’ll succeed, but it’s a testimony to Connelly’s craft that you can’t put the book down until you find out how they do it.

One of the most interesting parts of this novel is showing us the political and tactical side of trial law, the inner workings that we lay people don’t see or read in the papers. Watching Haller use his own background as a defense attorney to try to second-guess the opposing attorney, Clive Royce, was fascinating. The interaction between the DA and Haller, who takes the “independent” descriptor of “independent prosecutor” very seriously, was also interesting, although I felt Connelly could have done more with it.  The greatest departure from most of Connelly’s other work is how focused this story is on the courtroom, rather than the streets of LA. Although there is a drama that plays out in the city, the real tension is between the attorneys and the defendant during the trial.

While this wasn’t one of my very favorite Connelly books, it was still a great way to spend a rainy day. As always, Connelly’s writing is tight, the dialogue rings true, and the geography adds to the fun for a So Cal reader. But no matter where you live, if you haven’t ever read Michael Connelly and you enjoy the occasional fast-paced thriller, I recommend you give him a try.

Grade: B

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