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Onyx reviews: The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly

Mickey Haller has been out of circulation for a while, after being gut shot, addicted to OxyContin and undergoing rehab. He's thinking about easing his way back into practice when his legal career is given a jumpstart unlike anything he could possibly have imagined. He and Jerry Vincent used to cover for each other at court appearances from time to time. When Vincent is murdered in the parking garage attached to his office building, Mickey inherits his entire practice, including a high-profile celebrity murder case set to go to trial soon.

Mickey isn't sure he's up to the challenge, but the Supreme Court Judge who breaks the news to him has him on a very short leash. However, he assembles his old team, including one of his ex-wives as office manager and her new lover as his detective. Because Vincent's computer, phone and briefcase were stolen during the murder, Mickey has to rebuild his appearance calendar from files, day-planner notations and other random bits of information. Though he has first crack at Vincent's former clients, some opt to seek other representation and he cuts some loose as lost causes. He also hires one client, a former surfer and fellow addict, as his chauffeur.

The big case is the murder of studio executive Walter Elliot's wife and her lover at their posh oceanfront home. Elliot's wife planned to divorce him after her pre-nup became fully vested. That detail, coupled with the fact that he reported the homicide and had gun shot residue on his hands and clothing, has the prosecutor confident of a conviction.

Elliot, however, is nonchalant about his prosecution. Mickey has to browbeat him into cooperating and putting foreign movie rights deals and other studio business on the back burner for the duration of the trial. Vincent had a "magic bullet" solution to the case, but Mickey has no idea what that was, since his former colleague's defense notes are missing.

Investigating Vincent's murder is someone familiar to readers of Connelly's previous work: Harry Bosch who, as some readers will know, is Mickey's half brother, though Mickey doesn't know this. Connelly introduced the fact of Bosch's half brother in an early novel, The Black Ice, and commented about the relationship in The Lincoln Lawyer, the first novel to feature Mickey Haller. Since The Brass Verdict is told from Haller's first person perspective, readers have a rare opportunity to see Bosch through another character's eyes. Defense lawyers and homicide detectives are usually on the opposite side of any given case, so their initial meetings are more than a little antagonistic. In fact, Bosch is almost unrecognizable and certainly not presented in a flattering light as he tramples numerous of Vincent's clients' rights by searching their files at his office.

Mickey gets up to speed on Vincent's files and makes the required court appearances to dispense with some of the open cases. The big one, though, is the Eliot trial, which has all the signs of being another OJ or Robert Blake-class case. Though jury selection is scheduled to begin shortly after the file falls into Mickey's lap, Eliot adamantly refuses any suggestion of a continuance. He wants to be cleared as soon as possible. It's his only deal-breaker. He puts up with a lot of Mickey's demands, but this is the one on which he will not yield.

Mickey also has to deal with the possibility that whoever killed Vincent may come after him if he turns up dangerous information. Bosch and he form an uneasy alliance as they try to figure out what Vincent knew and why it was worth killing over.

Unused to being tied down by an office, Mickey returns to old habits—operating out of the back seat of one of three identical Lincolns, with his surfer client at the wheel. The elapsed time since The Lincoln Lawyer may have been hard on Mickey, but he seems like a better person than he was back then. He's still financially motivated, but not to the extent he once was. He's also trying to maintain a relationship with his young daughter, despite an antagonistic relationship with his ex-wife, a prosecutor. It's a lot to handle, and he lives in constant fear that the pressure will send him back to his addiction.

Connelly's ability to create two dissimilar lead characters is a tribute to his skill. Some series writers simply create carbon copies when they branch out to new series, but that's not the case here. Bosch and Mickey are more than the flip sides of the same coin (or the same mountain, which is how they see each other.) The books featuring Mickey are also quite different from a Bosch novel, more legal thriller than crime novel. Crimes are investigated with the same diligence, but the approaches are vastly different.

Lawyers know that everyone lies. It's almost Mickey's motto, but the surprises come thick and fast late in the novel, whose title comes from cop slang for an execution—brass referring to a bullet casing. They are satisfying surprises and most of them will catch readers unaware. The Brass Verdict marks a high point in Connelly's career to date.

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