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Bear is Broken (Leo Maxwell) Hardcover – February 5, 2013
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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*Starred Review* Smith’s first novel offers a superior blend of amateur-detective mystery and belated-coming-of-age novel cunningly masked as a legal thriller. Rookie lawyer Leo Maxell is shadowing his brother Teddy, a superstar San Francisco defense attorney, quickly becoming immersed in Teddy’s courtroom magic and the constant rumors that Teddy’s success is built on witness-tampering. Then, seemingly out of the blue, Teddy is gunned down in a crowded restaurant, and Leo must acknowledge that his brother has cultivated real enemies. SFPD detectives make it clear that they think Teddy had it coming, and Leo is left wondering whether the cops are running an investigation or exacting vengeance. Determined to find the shooter’s motive, Leo becomes the Energizer Bunny of detection, relentlessly churning until he unburies a lead. Before long, he’s found secret clients, suspicious behavior in Teddy’s closest associates, and a duo of taser-wielding women lurking in Teddy’s digs. Tenacity trumps technique—fortunately, because Leo is no sleuth. His search is more a desperate urge to connect with his untouchable big brother than a quest for justice, about which he is fairly ambivalent. Smith combines a smart but clueless protagonist forced to drop his naïveté; a gathering of well-drawn, equally motivated suspects; and, yes, some plot-furthering sex and violence. San Francisco’s gritty streets and neighboring redwood forests add to the appeal, and the addictive characters and the quirky, sideways look at the system close the deal on a terrific debut. A perfect match with David Carnoy’s novels and Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller series. --Christine Tran
"Set in 1999, Smith's powerful legal thriller debut, the first in a series, grabs the reader by the throat and doesn't let go. . . Assured prose and taut plotting add up to a winner." -Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
"Lachlan Smith has done the impossible - written a riveting debut novel that stands with the best legal thrillers on my bookshelf. In Bear Is Broken, Smith establishes a commanding presence, a gift for complex plotting, and an ability to create richly drawn characters who draw the reader into the action from the opening scene." -- Linda Fairstein, best-selling author of Night Watch
"Lachlan Smith brings the culture of the courthouse and the complicated relationship between two brothers to life in this excellent debut." --Alafair Burke, bestselling author of Never Tell
"Bear is Broken is a spectacular novel, managing to be both literary and suspenseful. Particularly admirable is Lachlan Smith's exploration of the relationship between Leo Maxwell and his tragically sidelined brother; never for a second does the twisting plot slacken. One of the best debuts I've read in years." --William Bernhardt, author of the best-selling Ben Kincaid series
"[A] debut novel that reads as if the writer has toiled at his craft for ages..." --Bookpage
"Smith's first novel offers a superior blend of amateur-detective mystery and belated-coming-of-age novel cunningly masked as a legal thriller ... a terrific debut. A perfect match with David Carnoy's novels and Michael Connelly's Mickey Haller series." --Booklist (Starred Review)
"Smith doesn’t write like a novice." —The New York Times Book Review
“An absorbing debut novel...Bear Is Broken is an exciting read.” —New York Journal of Books
“This superior whodunit takes off at breakneck speed and leads readers on a wild ride through Frisco’s seamy criminal underbelly. It also examines the troubled relationship between brothers who, despite a history of shared tragedy, have never been able to become a family.” —Shore News Today
“Smith . . . deftly combines the thriller with the whodunit in this dark and disturbing debut. With a richly drawn protagonist in Leo and the potential for a sequel, Bear Is Broken marks what promises to be the start of a riveting series.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch
"The ending is as chilling as any I’ve read in a while. As with the beginning of this fine novel, it does exactly what it is supposed to do: leave the reader stunned and wanting more." —Bookreporter
“[T]he final showdown is hair-raising. . . . Sensitive, ingenious and suspenseful. A series is promised and very welcome indeed.” —Kirkus Reviews
"Enough plot twists to please any mystery fan. A good read-alike recommendation for readers who enjoy David Hosp and S.J. Bolton." —Library Journal
"To call this book a crime novel or a thriller is to sell it short. It is far more provocative than that." —The Mystery Reader
“It is always a pleasure always a pleasure to happen upon a debut novel that reads as if the writer has toiled at his craft for ages, and that is definitely the case with Lachlan Smith’s San Francisco thriller, Bear Is Broken.” —Bookpage
“Smith’s first novel offers a superior blend of amateur-detective mystery and belated-coming-of-age novel cunningly masked as a legal thriller . . . Smith combines a smart but clueless protagonist forced to drop his naïveté; a gathering of well-drawn, equally motivated suspects; and, yes, some plot-furthering sex and violence. San Francisco’s gritty streets and neighboring redwood forests add to the appeal, and the addictive characters and the quirky, sideways look at the system close the deal on a terrific debut. A perfect match with David Carnoy’s novels and Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller series.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Smith’s powerful legal thriller debut, the first in a series, grabs the reader by the throat and doesn’t let go. . . . Assured prose and taut plotting add up to a winner.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Bear is Broken is a bold, imaginative reinvention of the rich vein of San Francisco crime writing. As in the best of Dashiell Hammett, Smith traces his finger along the spider silk that binds the city bottom to top. Heroin addicts are a step removed from Pac Heights aristocrats; Sixth Street is a neighbor of Stanford University. His richly emotional and tautly told story is invigorated by the timeless American tension between our desire for order and our love of freedom. In other words, the prosecution versus the defense. With rapt attention, readers will have to wait until the final pages to discover the villain, but on page one we meet our hero–Leo Maxwell, our trustworthy, hard-working, greenhorn lawyer who just wants to do right by the only family he’s ever known.” —Scott Hutchins, author of A Working Theory of Love
Top customer reviews
It's 1999 in San Francisco. Leo Maxwell just found out he passed his bar exam. He has always lived in the shadows of his older brother, Teddy, a defense attorney beloved by the city's criminals and reviled by the police and those in positions of authority who have crossed his path. One day while Leo, Teddy, and his entourage are at lunch, just before Teddy is supposed to deliver closing arguments in a spousal abuse trial, he is shot in the head, in the middle of a crowded restaurant. Yet the shooting is so well executed (no pun intended), the shooter gets away without anyone seeing him. And Teddy lies in a coma, with a bleak prognosis--if he even survives.
Leo realizes that because Teddy made an enemy of the police, they're not too eager to track down the shooter. Torn between wanting to become the lawyer he knows he can be--like Teddy but perhaps without the questionable ethics--and wanting to find out who tried to kill his brother, Leo starts digging into some of Teddy's cases, and finds himself coming face to face with an odd assortment of clients and others with whom Teddy had relationships. At the same time, Leo struggles with his feelings for Teddy (who took care of Leo after their father was imprisoned for their mother's murder) and unresolved feelings for Teddy's ex-wife and ex-law partner, Jeanie.
The more Leo tries to uncover the truth, the more trouble he seems to find himself in, and the more uncertainty he faces. At points in the book, he's pretty much convinced everyone in Teddy's life had something to do with his attempted murder. But the scattershot approach to investigation doesn't help him--it only threatens his potential law career, and his life.
I really enjoyed the depth Lachlan Smith gave to Leo's character, and the way he fleshed out the details of his relationship with Teddy and others. While the outcome of the book isn't necessarily surprising, there was enough uncertainty about who to trust that made the book compelling the entire way through. And while there may have been one red herring too many (I guess Smith needed to set up some threads for the next book in this series featuring Leo), it didn't detract from the book's appeal.
This isn't quite a legal thriller, and it isn't quite a mystery, but it is a well-written and fascinating book, so if you like those genres, give it a try.
I really liked the narrator, maybe that is what kept me reading, yet at times, I felt like he was spinning his wheels, and doing things that did not make sense. In trying to solve his brother's shooting, every one he came across was a suspect, and he was floundering so much, I felt like how did he ever pass his bar exams. Then I would forgive him because he was young, with so many issues, it didn't surprise me he was floundering. Everyone lied, and I mean everyone. It was....sad?
There were no secondary characters I liked, except maybe his brother who was on machines in the hospital, and the reader was learning about him through the narrators eyes...yet even then there were so many questions about his brothers integrity, I wasn't sure if I should like him or not. I did though.
So the story was convoluted, the ending seemed open ended, and I hope there will be another book with this character. I want to know what happens to him. Which explains the four stars. The author did his job, kept me reading, left me wanting me more. I will definitely read a second book from this author, hope Monkey boy is back.
Most recent customer reviews
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