The Brass Verdict

December 16, 2008

Title: The Brass Verdict
Author: Michael Connelly
Reader: Adam Giles
Audiobook: 2008
Length: 11 hours

3 Stars

Available at: The Audio Book Store

I’m going to get this out of the way immediately. You may be wondering why my rating is significantly lower than most other reviewers. On Amazon this book gets almost 5 stars. I have my reasons which I will explain further on in this review. I don’t think I’m being contrary, but perhaps I was hoping for more than this book delivered.

With that out of the way, on to the good stuff, and there is a lot good here. The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly puts two of his most popular characters in the same plot. That alone rates at least 3 ears. Mystery readers and fans of Connelly have been following the exploits of LAPD Detective Harry Bosch for over a decade. The Bosch stories provide a look into the heart of policing in Los Angeles as well as the evolution of Harry as he has grown older and seen much too much.

Lawyer Mickey Haller, seen previously in The Lincoln Lawyer, is rather new on the scene appearing in only a single book and the author seems to have decided to give us the flip side of the justice system, from the point of view of the defense.

The story starts with a brief prolog about a case in the 90s which public defender Haller beats an up and coming assistant district attorney by destroying a jail house snitch’s credibility. It’s a big win for Haller and a big loss for Jerry Vincent, his opponent. It has a profound effect on both men’s careers.

Jump forward to the present. Haller is called into the chief judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court and told that Vincent, now a famous defense attorney, was found murdered the previous night. And Haller has inherited Vincent’s practice. The good news is that Haller can certainly use the work; he only recently has begun to resurrect his law practice after a year-long detour into rehab. The bad news seems to be that Haller may not be ready for prime time.

Prime time is the “trial of the decade”, the murder trial of Walter Elliot the chairman/owner of Archway Pictures. Elliot definitely lives up to the stereotype of a Hollywood mogul; he’s nasty, condescending, and imperious and those are his good qualities. He is charged with the murder of his wife and her lover. Haller wants the case and works to keep Elliot on board all the while trying to find out exactly why Vincent was murdered.

Enter Bosch who has been assigned to the Vincent murder. Readers know that Bosch has little regard for lawyers, particularly defense lawyers. The sparring between the two is amusing, and neither man seems to get the upper hand on the other. As the two plots unfold Haller wonders if the murder of Vincent and the Elliot case are connected. He and his defense team try to uncover a connection while they rush to build a strategy to defend a man that might be guilty of murder.

Connelly has layered quite a bit of plot into The Brass Verdict. Many characters seem to have secrets and motives that might explain the various murders. There are some good twists including a big one at the very end that will probably surprise you. However, I found it rather easy to guess one of the villains of the piece. It was a bit too predictable for me, one major clue was so obvious it would have been criminal for it not to have proved decisive later on. I also missed some of the elements that made earlier works by the author outstanding. For the Bosch plot there didn’t seem to be the sense of outrage the fuels Bosch when he is working a case. Bosch seemed to be going through the paces here, perhaps he is worn out? For Haller, one of the joys of The Lincoln Lawyer was the sense of humor about the life of a defense lawyer whose office is in the backseat of his car. I didn’t get any of that this time.

The audio book is read by Peter Giles who does a good job handling the various characters. Unfortunately he is not Len Cariou who has been reading the Harry Bosch audio books recently. Cariou was able to channel the weariness and anger of Bosch. To compare is a bit unfair, but Giles reading of Bosch didn’t work for me. Adam Grupper read The Lincoln Lawyer and again I think he was able to bring a touch of humor and irony into Mickey Haller the Giles missed.

I am being tough on this book precisely because Michael Connelly is a great author and we have high expectations from him. The Brass Verdict is very good, I had hoped for fireworks when he brought Haller and Bosch together. I think we got sparklers.

Reviewed on 12/16/08 by Robert W. Karp




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