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"Nothing seemed to move in a straight line."
on October 5, 2010
Michael Connelly brings together criminal defense attorney Michael (Mickey) Haller and his half-brother, the cynical and battle-scarred LAPD Detective Harry Bosch, in "The Reversal." Mickey calls himself "the defender of the damned," a job he has had for over twenty years. "During that time," he states, "I'd grown a suspicion and distrust of prosecutors and police...." Still, the L. A. District Attorney convinces Mickey to go over to the dark side as an independent special prosecutor in the second trial of Jason Jessup. The defendant has already spent twenty-four years in San Quentin for abducting and strangling twelve-year-old Melissa Landy. Over the last two decades, Jessup filed numerous motions and appeals while steadfastly proclaiming his innocence. Much to his delight, the California Supreme Court reversed his conviction and sent the case back to Los Angeles County "for either retrial or dismissal of the charges." Against his better judgment, Mickey agrees to take the case, partly because it will give him an opportunity to work with his ex-wife, deputy district attorney Maggie McPherson, and Harry Bosch, who will be their investigator.
Jessup has a groundswell of support from the liberal media and an organization of lawyers known as the Genetic Justice Project. Although the physical evidence against Jessup may be a bit shaky, Melissa's sister, Sarah, who was thirteen when the murder occurred, vehemently stands by her eyewitness identification of Jessup as Melissa's abductor. However, Sarah has a history of drug abuse and run-ins with the law which the defense will undoubtedly exploit in an attempt to discredit her.
This is one of Connelly's most suspenseful and involving legal thrillers in years. It has incisive and realistic dialogue, compelling courtroom scenes, well-drawn characters, and a carefully constructed plot. Fascinating details about surveillance, trial strategy, forensics, and police procedure add to the book's verisimilitude. The only false note is that when Mickey is on the scene, he is the first-person narrator, but otherwise, Connelly writes in the third person. This is slightly jarring; Connelly might have been better off sticking to the third person throughout, especially since Haller, McPherson, and Bosch all share the spotlight. Another familiar face is FBI profiler Rachel Walling, who makes a strong cameo appearance when Bosch requests her analysis of Jessup's behavior. Harry stands out as the person most invested in nailing Jessup, partly because Harry has sole responsibility for his fourteen-year-old daughter whom he adores, and partly because he has worked tirelessly on hundreds of homicides during his thirty-five year career as a cop. He is passionate about finding the bad guys and putting them away so that they cannot do any more damage.
In "The Reversal," the author effectively shows how politics and public opinion influence the legal process; how the stress of trying a high-profile case can lead to mistakes in judgment; and the importance of always being prepared for the unexpected. Readers who crave a feel-good ending may balk at the novel's disquieting finale. Others may find Connelly's conclusion thought-provoking, daring, and original. It certainly demonstrates the ways in which life's vicissitudes and the capriciousness of fate can undermine the search for truth and pervert the course of justice.