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Book Review: The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly

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Michael Connelly's The Brass Verdict is a crisp crime/courtroom mystery. Written in muscular, straightforward prose, it's a sure hit for both Connelly and mystery fans alike and not surprisingly has landed on many "best of" lists this year (New York Times notable crime fiction, Library Journal best thrillers, Publisher's Weekly best books of the year ).

LA defense attorney Mickey Haller, first introduced by Connelly in The Lincoln Lawyer, is ready to make a comeback. Out of circulation for a year due to a stint in rehab, Haller finds himself with a full caseload. Seems he was listed as backup in the fine print for his colleague Jerry Vincent — who, like Haller, liked to work solo — when Vincent was murdered.

Haller doesn't have any clue who killed Jerry, and having detective Harry Bosche (making an appearance from Connelly's long-running series featuring him) working Vincent's murder seems more like a burden than anything else. Most of the cases are not terribly interesting, but there is one — that of Hollywood producer Walter Elliot, who is has been charged in the shooting deaths of his wife and her lover.

Haller and his team do some fancy footwork to keep all the balls in the air as Elliot demands a no-delay in the trial, scheduled in two weeks. As Haller works double-time, he walks the tightrope of client confidentiality and trying to help Bosch, because Haller himself could be next on the killer's list.

Haller is a defense lawyer who's not sure he's comfortable in the role any more, and this conflict underlies the action and the unwrapping of the mystery of the Vincent killing. But don't expect a lot of deep soul-searching. Connelly walks a tightrope himself, simultaneously creating a fast-moving plot and a detailed, but plain-spoken, look at how the law works.

Liberally sprinkled with jargon — "riding charges" for being accused and "taking the nickel" for exercising one's Fifth Amendment rights — the book has a masculine, no-nonsense feel about it (no wonder the blurb on the front cover is from GQ). This is law procedural, crossed with a police procedural, with an interesting main character, fast pace, and surprising conclusion.

That The Brass Verdict is not a great literary work is beside the point: it sets out to entertain and does so in spades. Connelly is a productive and savvy novelist who has earned his spot on the best-seller lists by keeping on top of things. Craig Ferguson, host of The Late Late Show, said when Connelly was a guest on his show on December 18, 2008, this may be Connelly's best book yet.

If you like a good mystery, then, why not try The Brass Verdict? The critics' decision isn't wrong on this one.

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About Nancy Fontaine

Nancy Fontaine is a librarian and freelance writer living in New Hampshire with her husband, two cats, and every four years during presidential primary season, the national press.