Saturday, January 08, 2011

Books of 2011: "The Reversal"

Early on in “The Reversal,” the latest book featuring LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch, author Michael Connelly captures what Bosch is all about in one simple exchange. Bosch and district attorney Maggie McPherson are on their way to Puget Sound to interview a witness, and near the end of a conversation the following exchange takes place:

“You’re not happy, are you, Harry?”

Bosch looked at her and shrugged.

“It’s a weird case. Twenty-four years old and we start with the bad guy already in prison and we take him out. It doesn’t make me unhappy, it’s just kind of strange, you know?”

She had a half smile on her face.

“I wasn’t talking about the case. I was talking about you. You’re not a happy man.”

Bosch looked down at the coffee he held on the table with two hands. Not because of the ferry’s movement, but because he was cold and the coffee was warming him inside and out.

“Oh,” he said.
A long silence opened up between them. He wasn’t sure what he should reveal to this woman. He had known her for only a week and she was making observations about him.

“I don’t really have time to be happy right now,” he finally said.

Connelly has been writing books with Harry Bosch in them for nearly twenty years now, and Harry has never been truly happy in any of them. There are fleeting moments, several of them involving his now teenage daughter, but even those are usually tinged with sadness or tragedy.

In “The Reversal,” which is outstanding, Bosch plays a key role but shares the spotlight with Mickey Haller, the attorney who previously appeared in “The Lincoln Lawyer” and “The Brass Verdict” (also with Bosch). The plot centers on Jason Jessup, who has been in prison for 24 years for the abduction and murder of a young girl. The case is reopened when DNA testing reveals that the semen found on the girl’s dress contains the DNA of her stepfather, and not Jessup. In one of the reversals in the book, Haller is asked to drop his normal role as a defense attorney, and take on this case as an independent prosecutor. He immediately suspects that this has more to do with protecting the District Attorney than it does with the department’s admiration for his skills, but he takes the case on the condition that Maggie “McFierce” McPherson, his ex-wife, be assigned as his second chair and that Harry Bosch be named as the chief case investigator. The trio faces the challenge of reconstructing a 24-year old case where many of the key witnesses are now dead, otherwise incapacitated, or have simply dropped off the face of the Earth.

The book alternates between Haller and Bosch, although each appear in the other’s chapters. The Haller chapters are written in first-person with Haller as the narrator, and the Bosch chapters are written in third-person. As the story unfolds, Jessup (who is out, having been released on bail) begins to act in some strange ways, eventually leading Haller and Bosch (as well as Rachel Walling, the FBI agent who has appeared in several Connelly novels, and plays a cameo role here) to believe that he is about to “blow” and perhaps return to his (alleged) old ways. I’ll refrain from saying more about the plot, to avoid spoilers.

Pairing Bosch with Haller has allowed Connelly to energize the Bosch series, as well as open some new avenues to explore his private life. And nearly two decades in, “The Reversal” shows no signs that the series is coming to an end. Which is good news for anyone who enjoys well-written detective novels.

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