The Reversal by Michael Connelly

October 18, 2010

Plot summary (with spoilers): L.A. defense attorney Mickey Haller, known as the “Lincoln lawyer” because of his habit of working out of the backseat of a chauffeured Lincoln Town Car while cruising through the city, has been approached by the D.A. with a surprising offer. Williams wants Haller to be the city’s independent counsel in a 24-year-old case that is going to be retried in just a couple of months. Haller considers the offer for a moment and then accepts. Yes, folks, Mickey Haller will represent…the People!

The case boils down to this: 24 years ago, Jason Jessup, then a tow truck driver, was accused of kidnapping and murdering 12-year-old Melissa Landy. The girl’s body was found stuffed in a dumpster with a semen stain on her dress, three of her hairs were found in Jessup’s truck, and Melissa’s sister Sarah identified Jessup as the man she saw grab the girl from their front yard. Jessup was tried and convicted, but kept appealing the case from prison. Finally, modern DNA testing on the dress showed that the semen actually came from Melissa’s stepfather, so the state Supreme Court ordered a retrial.

Mickey chooses ex-wife Maggie McPherson as his second, and brings half-brother Harry Bosch on as his lead investigator. The three make quite a formidable team as they hammer out trial strategy, interview witnesses, and follow up on ice-cold leads. To complicate the case even further, Jessup was ordered released on his own recognizance while awaiting the new trial, necessitating a special operation by the LAPD to keep him under surveillance 24/7. The surveillance team notices some suspicious behavior that FBI profiler Rachel Walling believes indicates that the Landy girl was not Jessup’s first kill.

Once the trial gets under way, the novel goes through the usual paces of a courtroom thriller. There’s lengthy testimony from star witnesses, jury mishaps, posturing by the lawyers, and a couple of surprises. Then there’s a major twist that I never saw coming, leading to a completely unsatisfying ending.

Liked:

  • I enjoyed seeing Mickey Haller on the other side of the aisle this time around. Was he as effective an attorney while representing the People? Maybe not (since he didn’t technically win the case), but at least he got a taste of what it was like over there.
  • The investigation, not the trial, was the best part of the book. It was interesting to see how Bosch was able to handle was was essentially a cold case, and I really liked where the Rachel Walling profile was going. I’m surprised that Connelly didn’t pursue that storyline to the end.
  • This was a very quick read for the most part, and was highly engrossing for the first three-quarters.

Disliked:

  • Ugh, that ending was TERRIBLE!!! I absolutely HATE that kind of non-resolution in novels. Sure, it might be more representative of “real life” for the characters not to get answers to the questions they were seeking, but this is just a book. Choose a resolution and write that ending!!
  • I did not understand the purpose of Jessup’s “dungeon” under the Santa Monica pier. What exactly was he planning on doing there? Apparently he already planned out the shooting if the trial didn’t go his way, and he brought canned food to the pier so he could have a place to retreat to. Yeah…. then what?? He had to have known he would immediately become California’s most wanted fugitive, so what the hell would his next move have been? He could have stayed under the pier for only so long.
  • This is kind of along the same lines, but I had to wonder why Jessup was painted as being an animal burrowing in a den. Why was his apartment completely darkened and littered with rancid food? And why did he write on the walls? He was in prison, not solitary confinement. Would he really be that accustomed to living like an animal??? I didn’t expect him to have leather furniture, Matouk bedding, and silk pajamas, but come on!
  • What the hell was up with that whole thing about Bosch’s daughter correcting his grammar? And it was such an odd mistake too. Bosch said, “Are you almost done your work?” and Maddie corrects him, saying he should use “finished” or “done with”. WTF? Who wouldn’t say “done with” in that sentence in the first place??? Is that supposed to be a California thing? I have never in my life heard someone say “are you almost done your work” outside of an ESL classroom. This is what, the 14th Bosch novel? When has he EVER spoken like that before? What a dumb thing to add in.
  • Nitpick: One of the conditions of Jessup’s retrial was that the jury wasn’t supposed to know that he was ever tried for the crime before. There were a couple scenes where the judge and lawyers had to be very careful not to allude to the previous trial. But then while Bosch was reading a transcript from the first trial, part of the testimony ran: “Okay, Detective, why don’t you tell the jury what happened next?” Um, wouldn’t that clue the current jury into the fact that there was a previous jury, meaning a previous trial? Careless mistake on Connelly’s part.

Rating:

I have mixed feelings about The Reversal by Michael Connelly. On one hand, the story was pretty darn good most of the way through. On the other hand, the ending just ruined the experience. Guess I better just split the difference and give the book 3 stars out of 5.

2 Responses to “The Reversal by Michael Connelly”

  1. Loved your review, I think it was very accurate. I would just like to add that Mickey also said something during the last day of the trial that totally gave up the fact that there was a previous trial. I don’t remember exactly what it was but I was so sure it was intentional and that it was going to blow the case that I was surprised when they just moved on with no comment…
    Also, I would like to comment about two things Bosch did:
    1. Shooting Jessup in the restroom with his finger
    2. The throat slash at the court room
    He’s acting like he’s five years old, oblivious to the fact that there was a juror in the restroom with them, standing at the sink but could be looking at him through the mirror, and in court any reporter who’s gaze wondered could have seen the throat slash, just as Mickey did. Stupid and unnecessary moves if you ask me.

    Also, the ending was really disappointing as you mentioned, the whole trial I was just waiting for the moment Jessup screwed up and Bosch would find a number of bodies of girls long gone, but nope, nothing. Not even after his death. The least he could do was put the bracelet they found in one of the pictures of the girls so we knew it was going somewhere.

  2. Just finished the book today. It’s as if you were my ghost writer for this review. You were spot on.

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