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A slam-bang thriller to keep awake

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By Pat Wellington

Some die-hard fans of Michael Connelly have said that he frequently robs them of a full night’s sleep – particularly when they start one of his novels after 10 p.m. Surely, that must be the case for his latest, The Brass Verdict, in which he brings together two main characters from different series, a trend many mystery writers like Robert Parker are eagerly following.

In this latest novel Mickey Haller, a defense attorney who practices law out of one of his four Lincoln Town cars, has just inherited numerous cases from a colleague, Jerry Vincent, who has been brutally murdered. Among the windfall cases is that of movie mogul Walter Elliot, accused of having shot his wife and her lover at his Malibu beach house.

From the outset, what puzzles Haller is Elliot’s cool and his business-as-usual demeanor, not to mention his failure to sound upset in his 9-1-1 call after he discovered the two victims. This despite the overwhelming circumstantial evidence against him. Knowing he’s being kept in the dark, Haller complains, “It seemed uncomfortably clear that I was being mushroomed by my own client.”

So when the brooding detective Harry Bosch shows up to assist Haller, he grudgingly accepts. Not that this promises to be a love fest – far from it.

Haller says of Bosch, “He grinned at me without any warmth, giving me that cop’s practiced smile of judgment.” Even so, Bosch has an uncanny way of showing up just when Haller needs him most.

As a bonus, the novel has one of the greatest slam-bang openers you’re likely to encounter. Here’s Haller narrating:” Everybody lies. Cops lie. Lawyers lie. Witnesses lie. The victims lie. A trial is a contest of lies.”

And, indeed, even when there aren’t out and out lies in The Brass Verdict,  there’s a lot of information withheld even between Haller and Bosch.

During the time between “The Lincoln Lawyer” and this book, Haller had fallen on hard times – recovering from both a bullet in his gut and an addiction for pain killers. But with the Elliot case he’s once more on his game. He even outlines how preparing for a huge case resembles a Christmas tree by first establishing a trunk and branches and then hanging bits of evidence all over them.

But just when acquittal seems all but in the bag, the case turns trickier than either Haller or Bosch could have anticipated.

Connelly still wears the crown when it comes to legal thrillers.

Pat Wellington is a retired English professor, freelance writer, and faculty member of On Top of the World’s Master the Possibilities.