Michael Connelly's 'The Reversal': The Shelf Life Book Club
Let me start this entry by saying that I’m a huge Michael Connelly fan — I think I’ve read everything he’s published (and have a shelf full of grubby, well-thumbed paperbacks at home to prove it). His are the best hard-boiled cop novels in the business.
But. But. I didn’t love last year’s Nine Dragons, and our reviewer Jennifer Reese didn’t either. It read like a rush job to me, as if Connelly just cranked the novel out to meet a deadline. I missed his usual crackling dialogue, his deft hand at marshalling a complicated plot. (And I was really rankled at the fate of one of the recurring minor characters, which struck me as purely a cheap, attention-getting device). But anyway — we’re not here to pick apart Nine Dragons. And besides, every author has ups and downs.
But given Nine Dragons, I approached The Reversal with trepidation, especially since it combines Connelly’s two trademark characters: the crabby, difficult LAPD detective Hieronymous Bosch (known just as Bosch) and his half-brother, flashy, a little-too-smooth defense attorney Mickey Haller. (The Mickey Haller novel The Lincoln Lawyer is without peer in the legal thriller genre, in my opinion.)
The premise of The Reversal grabbed me: After 24 years, a convicted child murderer is given a new trial on the basis of DNA evidence. The Los Angeles DA wants to hire Haller as a one-time special prosecutor, saying they can’t handle the case themselves because it’s “tainted.” And they want Bosch on the case, too. That makes sense to me, since Bosch has staked his reputation on solving cold cases. But Haller “fit in as well at the DA’s office about as well as a cat did at the dog pound,” as Connelly says. Anyone besides me find the very premise of the book a bit strained? I just don’t but the temporary marriage of Haller and the DA. I think Connelly could have come up with a more graceful way to put these two together.
The case proceeds with Connellyesque twists and turns. But to me, the pace is a little halting. I was immediately thrown by the whole “alternating chapter” narrative, with Bosch telling one, then Haller, and so on. I think Connelly sort of is Bosch, and those chapters, to me, revive the Bosch of long-past books I loved so well, keenly observant, ascerbic, often downright unpleasant. Nothing gets past him –the man notices everything. In contrast, Connelly doesn’t seem quite so at home in Haller’s skin. Thoughts on this, anyone? I actually finished the book wishing that Bosch had narrated the whole thing, and that Haller had remained peripheral.
There’s a reason that can’t happen, though, and it’s because this is more of a legal thriller than a straight cop thriller. So what we have, in essence, is Bosch playing second fiddle, and that bothers me. Connelly has created these two indelible characters, and by throwing them together, he takes away something from each of them. I think they’re stronger standing on their own. Anyone else feel the same way? More specifically, does anyone prefer Haller over Bosch as a character?
I don’t want to give away what ultimately happens in the book, but I will say this: Other than the dual narrator issue, the big problem for me is that there isn’t much of a mystery in The Reversal. It’s all about procedure, both in and out of the courtroom. And frankly, the villain is practically pallid when compared to most of Connelly’s other baddies.
Our reviewer Thom Geier didn’t love The Reversal and gave it a B. I think I’d give it about the same, maybe a trifle lower. (Though I’d give the dialogue an A, as always.) How about all of you? Weigh in — tell us how this book compared to past Connellys for you, whether you thought the pairing of the half-brothers worked (or whether, like me, you thought Haller’s appointment to the case was ludicrous). And did the mystery itself work for you? I’m curious to know what you think.