Monday, December 31, 2012

The Reversal

The Reversal isn't Michael Connelly's first book where he brings two of his main characters together. He had at least one where Detective Harry Bosch teamed up with fed (or former fed) Terry McCaleb (the character Eastwood played in Blood Work*). Normally, it isn't too hard because both the characters are in law enforcement, or one is and the other is some nosy reporter that uncovers pertinent details.

With The Reversal, he decides to pair up Bosch with Michael Haller, the so-called "Lincoln Lawyer", which is kind of strange, as Haller is a dedicated defense attorney. Not exactly the sort of person Bosch would be eager to work with. Connelly's solution is to have a case of an alleged child murderer, Jason Jessup, that needs to be retried 24 years later. The D.A. asks Haller to do it, wanting someone seen as independent from the District Attorney, and Haller accepts, thinking he can get something out of it.

There's some pretrial work, planning the case, finding key witnesses, anticipating the defense's plan. After that, most of the book is focused on the trial, with a running subplot detailing Bosch's concern about Mr. Jessup's nighttime travels. The comes quickly, and rather abruptly. At first I was surprised. It felt like Connelly had run out of pages, and had to wrap everything up in a hurry. On reflection, I think he chose to show how quickly things can turn, and how quick turns can produce unexpected results.

Connelly never encourages the reader to sympathize with Jessup. He's consistently painted as being guilty of the crime he committed, and all his protests to the contrary are merely efforts to get free so he can resume the child killing. It's an interesting choice, considering the story is told from Haller's perspective. Haller is typically a defense attorney, and proud of it. He enjoys the idea that he's standing up for the little guy, against the Man. But if he ever entertains the notion Jessup is innocent, he doesn't let it affect his approach to the case. I guess you could argue he can't worry about that, he has to focus on getting the best result for the prosecution he can, as he would focus on getting the best result for his client when he's the defense, regardless of innocence.

But it's still a curious choice, because it makes the reader view Jessup's attorney poorly. He tries to attack the credibility of the deceased's sister, to defend a person we basically know did it. He tries all sorts of sneaky bullshit to win over the jury. he generally behaves like every sleazy mob lawyer you've ever seen in a movie or TV show. And he's one of Haller's colleagues, so is there a difference between the two? Haller notes more than once he would play things exactly the way Royce does. Which doesn't make me terribly inclined to like Haller. It could have been a simple bit of luck that lands him as independent prosecutor, and Royce as the defense, rather than the other way around. However, if the first line of the story is any indication, Connelly's already written that story for Haller.

Enjoy your New Year's Eve, folks.

* Connelly had another book where Bosch investigated Terry's death. It came out after the movie, and multiple characters complained about how inaccurate the movie was. That got tedious fast. 

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