MICHAEL CON­NELLY’S TRICKY, L.A.-STYLE JUS­TICE

L.A. can take com­fort be­cause Det. Harry Bosch and at­tor­ney Mickey Haller are on the case.

Los Angeles Times - - Arts & Books - Jonathan Shapiro Shapiro, a for­mer fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor, is an ad­junct law pro­fes­sor at USC and the ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of the up­com­ing NBC com­edy “The Paul Reiser Show.”

The Re­ver­sal

A Novel

Michael Con­nelly

Lit­tle, Brown: 394 pp., $27.99

Los An­ge­les has much to lament. Our Dodgers, vic­tims of a bro­ken mar­riage, are the ne­glected boys of sum­mer. The Tro­jans are on pro­ba­tion, the Bru­ins are bad and the NFL has aban­doned us en­tirely. City Hall’s a morass, Hollywood an ag­ing in­com­pe­tent — build­ing va­can­cies line the pot­holed streets, and there is lit­tle com­fort to be found any­where.

Thank God for Michael Con­nelly. With­out him, Los An­ge­les would just be Hous­ton with­out hu­mid­ity, Phoenix with the sea.

“The Re­ver­sal,” Con­nelly’s new novel, might be his best: a crack­ling-good read, smart and emo­tion­ally sat­is­fy­ing. It man­ages to con­dense decades of time and reams of in­for­ma­tion into a com­pelling nar­ra­tive that adeptly ex­plores var­i­ous el­e­ments of L.A.’s own ver­sion of what passes as a crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

Twenty-four years ago, while play­ing hide-and-go-seek with her sis­ter, lit­tle Melissa Landy­was taken from the front­yard of her Han­cock Park home. Tow truck driver Ja­son Jes­sup was con­victed of her murder.

Now that DNA ev­i­dence has led to the re­ver­sal of Jes­sup’s con­vic­tion, two of Con­nelly’s great­est cre­ations — LAPD Det. Harry Bosch and long­time de­fense at­tor­ney Mickey Haller — must join forces to get jus­tice for the dead girl’s fam­ily while pre­vent­ing fur­ther mur­ders.

Bosch, who has ap­peared in many of Con­nelly’s books, is a fa­mil­iar and wel­come pres­ence. The LAPD’s great­est bro­ken­hearted ide­al­ist, Bosch is tough, sen­si­tive and driven, con­duct­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the old murder with his usual sense of pur­pose. Un­like wine, crim­i­nal cases don’t get bet­ter with age. Bosch must deal with ar­chaic lost ev­i­dence and wit­nesses who are ei­ther dead or un­able to re­mem­ber decades-old events be­cause of Alzheimer’s, ad­dic­tion or a re­fusal to re­visit trau­matic mem­o­ries.

It is painstak­ing work but never bor­ing. Con­nelly, once a Los An­ge­les Times re­porter, re­tains his jour­nal­is­tic gifts; his eye for de­tail is spot-on — read­ers learn how an ev­i­dence box is packed, what a junkie’s flop ho­tel looks like and the hue of jail­house tat­toos.

As al­ways, it is a plea­sure to fol­low Bosch as he uses chits with the FBI to get some in­for­ma­tion or comes close to cross­ing pro­ce­dural or eth­i­cal lines to pro­tect those he cares about. A de­cent man do­ing in­de­cent work, a PhilipMar­lowe on the job, Bosch, a 36-year vet­eran of the force, never fails to fas­ci­nate read­ers.

That Con­nelly man­ages to make Haller’s switch from de­fense to pros­e­cu­tion both plau­si­ble and en­ter­tain­ing is a neat trick. The star of Con­nelly’s “The Lin­coln Lawyer,” Haller is a wise­crack­ing cynic, a highly com­pe­tent, griz­zled vet­eran of count­less court­room bat­tles. Less dig­ni­fied than Bosch, per­haps, Haller at heart is just as de­cent. As in the real world, the work of Haller the pros­e­cu­tor may not be as im­me­di­ately in­trigu­ing as Bosch’s, but in time the court­room scenes pro­vide some enor­mous pay­offs.

Con­nelly nails the de­tails of Haller’s world as pre­cisely as he nails Bosch’s. Dur­ing Haller’s ap- pear­ance in Depart­ment 100, the largest court­room in the Crim­i­nal Courts Build­ing, Con­nelly de­scribes the tired judge sit­ting on the bench “with his head down and his sharp shoul­ders jut­ting up and closer to his ears with each pass­ing year. His black robe gave them the ap­pear­ance of folded wings and gave him the over­all ap­pear­ance of a vul­ture wait­ing im­pa­tiently to dine on the bloody de­tri­tus of the jus­tice sys­tem.”

Con­nelly por­trays the grind­ing process of a crim­i­nal trial, the emo­tional ups and downs of the lawyers in­volved, the pee­vish­ness of the judge and the pet­ti­ness of the ju­rors and gad­flies with re­mark­able pre­ci­sion.

This gives the book much cred­i­bil­ity and im­bues its char­ac­ters with so much re­al­ity that the reader doesn’t even ques­tion that the pub­lic em­braces the ex­on­er­ated Jes­sup, who also hap­pens to be a con­victed child-killer, as a folk hero or that there has ever been any­thing known as an “in­de­pen­dent pros­e­cu­tor” in the Los An­ge­les D.A.’s of­fice.

“The Re­ver­sal” con­firms Con­nelly’s sta­tus as a cul­tural in­sti­tu­tion in this city: Taken to­gether, his 22 nov­els form an in­dis­pens­able, com­pelling chron­i­cle of L.A. and LAPD his­tory from the Daryl Gates era up through the Char­lie Beck ad­min­is­tra­tion, from Rod­ney G. King to O.J. Simp­son to the Ram­part scan­dal. His books are rich in the de­tails and mean­ings of seis­mic events that have formed the rough con­tours of L.A. law and or­der.

Con­nelly is too hon­est a writer to end this book too neatly. Law, love and life are messy af­fairs, and bit­ter­sweet. But they are not with­out hope, even in their dark­est mo­ments.

By sug­gest­ing a con­tin­u­ing part­ner­ship be­tween Bosch and Haller, Con­nelly lets some light in. It is fil­tered through the haze that makes L.A.’s gauzy beauty the stuff of night­mares, but also of our bet­ter dreams.

We’ve still got Vin Scully, at least for an­other year, Huell Howser, the Lak­ers. And we’ve got Con­nelly. To quote an­other L.A. lu­mi­nary, Randy New­man: I love L.A.

Ja­cob Thomas

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