Michael Connelly, The Reversal: Review

Michael Connelly’s latest thriller stars his investigative team of unlikely half-brothers. Jason Pinter explores Connelly’s must read legal underworld.

Michael Connelly (Troy Maben / AP Photo)

Calling Michael Connelly’s 23rd novel, The Reversal, “Vintage Connelly” would be both accurate and unfair. In the sense that “vintage” means excellence and maturity, the words fit Connelly like a dust jacket. In the sense that it conveys an air of agedness, it slips off just as easily. What makes Connelly the master of his craft is that he is constantly reinventing himself and his characters, expanding their worlds without sacrificing their humanity. Reinvention is at the heart of The Reversal, characterized by its yin and yang leads: half brothers Mickey Haller and Harry Bosch.

Haller, first introduced in 2007’s The Lincoln Lawyer, conducted his private criminal defense attorney practice literally from the back of a Lincoln Town Car, chauffeured by a client working off his legal bills. Haller has never slowed long enough to let moss take hold, and is so slick that Hollywood had no choice but to cast Matthew McConaughey in the film adaptation. Connelly paired Haller with his estranged half-brother Bosch in The Brass Verdict and 9 Dragons, where the gruff, soulful detective forced the glossy Haller to rediscover his atrophied soul.

Harry Bosch is decidedly not smooth—unless you count his jazz collection. He wears an old-fashioned mustache and a healthy skepticism for authority, and in thirty plus years in law enforcement Bosch has accrued bodies and baggage over sixteen novels (fourteen as lead, two as supporting character) that would put weaker-willed men into an asylum. Like Haller, Bosch is divorced and attempting to decipher the complicated being that is his teenaged daughters. Take away the sexuality and hair gel, and Bosch might as well be Detective Don Draper. Bosch gathers moss as though it was the stone’s only job to do so. “Everybody counts or nobody counts” is his motto.

Take away the sexuality and hair gel, and Bosch might as well be Detective Don Draper.

Haller’s coupling with Bosch works as a natural odd-couple dichotomy, with each character occupying an indispensible role in the Law & Order spectrum. Bringing Haller into Connelly’s universe has reinvigorated Bosch, while adding the stoic Bosch to Haller’s untethered life helps peels away the glossy varnish covering the Lincoln Lawyer’s world.

In The Reversal, Connelly once again brings Haller to the forefront, only with an interesting reversal to Haller’s own career: after a career defending “the damned” for payola, Haller is now asked by the district attorney to work one-off case as a prosecutor, handling the retrial of a man recently exonerated by DNA evidence after being convicted of murdering a young girl nearly a quarter-century ago. As per usual, Haller takes the case knowing it will grant him chips he can later cash in for favors and deals. To aid his case, Haller picks an all-star team from Connelly’s own rogues gallery: detective Bosch as lead investigator, and Haller’s ADA ex-wife Maggie McPherson as his second chair.

Connelly expertly navigates the tricky corridors of the American legal system. Haller’s hands are tied, prevented from mentioning the previous trial in front of the jury, while feeling numerous eyes peering over his shoulder as the tabloid-drenched case progresses. Haller and Bosch may not have many traits in common—except for their mutual disrespect for pencil-pushing bureaucrats. While Bosch always seems to be working on the side of the victims, Haller appears to find motivation in his spite for his adversaries. He is a master manipulator, as adept as massaging emotions as Bosch is at gathering facts. As Haller observes of another lawyer’s numerous failed objections, “He was scoreless and getting under the judge’s skin. I could tell and so I did not complain. I wanted that annoyance to fester. It might come in handy later.”

The dichotomy between the characters—and their tenuous relation as half-brothers—adds a personal element to The Reversal. Like a great meal, the preparation is often as marvelous as the finished product. Connelly spins characters, stories and lives without ever dropping a plate. Over three books Bosch and Haller have begun to develop a grudging mutual respect, and though they might frown at each other’s tactics they know they are, like Connelly, perhaps the very best at what they do.

Meet Harry Bosch

Tunnel rat. Son of a whore. An idealist in a world full of cynics. L.A.P.D. detective Harry Bosch first appeared in Connelly’s Edgar-award winning debut novel The Black Echo. While investigating the murder of a fellow ‘Nam tunnel rat, Bosch finds himself on the trail of a team of bank robbers whose methods seem eerily familiar.

Meet Mickey Haller

In The Lincoln Lawyer, Connelly introduced the chrome-spattered defense attorney Mickey Haller. While it doesn’t redefine the legal thriller, The Lincoln Lawyer is perhaps the most breakneck-paced of Connelly’s entire oeuvre (no small feat), and the tension-drenched courtroom scenes are written with an eye for procedural detail that only a Pulitzer-nominated journalist could possess.

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Jason Pinter is the bestselling author of five novels in his Henry Parker thriller series, which have been nominated for numerous awards with nearly 1.5 million copies in print worldwide. His first book for young readers, ZEKE BARTHOLOMEW: SUPERSPY!, will be published next summer. His website is www.jasonpinter.com, and his Twitter page is.