Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung
THE REVERSAL is the third of Michael Connelly’s Mickey “The Lincoln Lawyer” Haller series. Some way back Connelly revealed that Haller was the half-brother of his main protagonist Harry Bosch, and in this novel they work together for the first time. Among other implications of the title is that Haller for once reverses his usual role as a defence attorney to act for the prosecution and Bosch is assigned by the LAPD to act as a special investigator on the case.
The case is unusual in that after twenty five years inside, Jason Jessup, who was alleged to have taken a child and murdered her, has had the evidence against him reviewed following new DNA analysis and his original conviction ruled unsafe. Unfortunately for Jessup that does not prove him innocent, simply subject to a retrial, and the District Attorney, for reasons of his own, decides to prosecute but also decides to use an outsider to lead the case. That outsider is Mickey Haller.
LAPD seems rather better than some of our British authorities in keeping evidence, if reports of the re-trial of Asil Nadir here are to be believed, and Haller and Bosch quickly begin to examine the case, and the implication of the DNA evidence that contrary to evidence at the original trial another serious crime was also taking place. Haller and Bosch need to show that there were two culprits and two separate crimes, the worst of which was committed by Jessup if his conviction is to stand.
Meanwhile, the re-examination based on assumptions that Jessup was a child kidnapping murderer throws up the possibility that his was not a single offence. Bosch’s criminal profiler friend Rachel Walling suggests he might have killed others before his arrest in this case. What evidence can be found linking him to those other crimes? Perhaps it can be found in his night-time excursions about the city of Los Angeles, as he waits while free on bail, where he is observed going to some unusual and lonely places. Britain would perhaps achieve this more simply by an ankle tracker, but such devices appear not to exist in Los Angeles and instead he has to be followed by an elite observation squad, unfortunately subject to human failings.
Haller is a lawyer, as was Perry Mason, and I always felt that the best Perry Mason novels reached court about half way through, and that is what happens in THE REVERSAL. Unfortunately, that is where the weaknesses of this book start to show, although some of them are only apparent on looking back. Jessup is defended by a human rights lawyer, who has been campaigning for him for years, Briton Clive Royce, nicknamed “Clever Clive”. Royce does not have an equivalent in the Perry Mason books, but he does in Erle Stanley Gardner’s other lawyer series, the D. A. books, where A B C Fox repeatedly threatens the true path of justice by his dubious defences. Royce is presented as bad as Fox, which is strange because there has been a British human rights lawyer working on American death row cases with the same first name as Royce about whom there are no suggestions of impropriety. Royce’s actions in the case mean that it is not finally resolved, except by death, and that his client Jessup achieves neither clearance nor conviction.
The title of an earlier Harry Bosch novel, “A Darkness More Than Night”, could be applied to this one, not just because many of Jessup’s activities take place at that time, but because it represents the confusion and lack of clarity in re-opening old and complicated cases. It would also represent the iron or darkness that might have entered into the soul of a man such as Jason Jessup if he has had to survive twenty-plus years in prison, and the techniques he might have developed to cope, where what might remain one man’s prison cell might become another man’s idea of home. Could there be just one reversal? I doubt it. Surely Mickey Haller will go back to the defence? And Harry Bosch go back to cases with more definite outcomes? Meanwhile, THE REVERSAL will take you into the darkness of the Californian legal system with little chance of turning back.