Much of what makes Michael Connelly's mystery novels so enjoyable is how sympathetic Connelly is to his heroes' perspectives, even when they contradict his other heroes. When Connelly writes about crime reporter Jack McEvoy, he rails against uncooperative cops. When he follows FBI agent Rachel Walling or LAPD detective Harry Bosch, he records their gripes about newshounds and lawyers, and their respective frustrations in dealing with the local authorities and the feds. And when Connelly focuses on criminal attorney Mickey Haller—as he does in his latest novel, The Brass Verdict—then all his characters' past rants about crook-coddling shysters go out the window.
When The Brass Verdict opens, Haller is making tentative plans to return to his practice after taking a long time to recover from a gunshot wound suffered at the end of Connelly's bestseller The Lincoln Lawyer. Haller's plans are accelerated when his colleague Jerry Vincent is murdered, and Haller is assigned all of Vincent's open cases, including the highest-profile murder trial in Hollywood. Meanwhile, Harry Bosch is sniffing around, investigating Vincent's murder and impeding Haller's attempts to prepare his defense of a splashy independent-film producer. The irony? Bosch and Haller are half-brothers, though only Bosch knows the truth of their relationship. And though their connection has little to do with The Brass Verdict's plot—which involves European mobsters, showbiz arrogance, and various levels of institutional corruption—the fraternal hook between two of Connelly's recurring characters reinforces his vision of a symbiotic justice system, where even the opponents are inadvertently in league.
As often happens with Connelly mysteries, The Brass Verdict's story weakens as its resolution approaches, once it all becomes a matter of revealing who's who and assigning everyone a fate—some apt, some not. But until the requisite chases and confrontations, The Brass Verdict fascinates with its thousand little procedural details, from how a law firm's billing system works to how lawyers skirt the line between clever advocacy and unethical behavior. The novel's title is a slang term for a bullet fired by anyone frustrated with the bureaucracy and double-checking of law enforcement. But in Connelly's world, a well-crafted legal filing can have just as devastating an effect, and can also assure that justice is done—after a fashion.