Washington Lawyer

Books in the Law

From Washington Lawyer, February 2016

By Ronald Goldfarb

The Crossing
By Michael Connelly
Little Brown and Company, 2015 
Review by Ronald Goldfarb

"[W]here the victim appeared to be chosen at random, there is always a crossing point. The place where the predator first encounters his prey . . . the place where the circle of the victim's life overlaps the circle of the predator." 

As Michael Connelly fans know, his 28 novels have had critical and economic success (60 million copies sold worldwide, a TV series, and a movie), featuring 30-year veteran homicide detective—recently suspended and retired—Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch and his half-brother, trial lawyer Mickey Haller (star of the 2005 book -turned-movie The Lincoln Lawyer.) The two, "sons of a fabled L.A. defense attorney . . . grown up miles and generations apart," come together in The Crossing when Haller prevails on Bosch to assist him in his defense of an alleged murderer he believes is innocent. 

Reluctantly, Bosch becomes Haller's investigator, a professional crossing to the dark side of the criminal justice system for the homicide detective. Harry is a purist, no nonsense, no compromise detective. He respects Mickey's skills, but not his perspective. "The law could bend. If there were lawyers involved, then there was always a deal to be made," Connelly writes. 

The book explores the differing goals and morality of detective work and criminal trial defense work: ". . . a fundamental difference in how they looked at evidence and other nuances of an investigation." Was Haller really after a non-guilty verdict, or a shot at glory at trial, Bosch speculated. Bosch's perspective was clear and singular. 

Haller had to put things in the context of trial and how it might be used to knock down the prosecution's case. Bosch only had to look at the evidence as a bridge to the truth. 

Did Bosch "miss the work so much that he could actually cross the aisle and work for an accused murderer?" What motivated Bosch to assume a role he personally found repugnant was his fear that a guilty man would go free if the wrong person was convicted of the crime. The detective didn't care about theories of reasonable doubt. "To me it's a simple equation. If your client didn't do it, then I'm going to find out who did. That's the person or persons I want," Bosch tells Mickey. Catching the real culprit and undoing a dirty fellow detective—these were Bosch's motives. He searches for the truth, "no matter how it falls," Connelly writes. 

Mickey's perspective—to focus strictly on defending his client—differs from Bosch's, but in this case their goals intersect. For Mickey, "[i]nnocent clients leave scars." Mickey tells Harry that they are "working this from a different angle. It's not what you're used to, but our responsibility above all is to the client. We can't do anything that may hurt the possibility of a successful defense at trial . . . I know it's going to take some getting used to." To which Harry replies, "Don't worry about it. I don't want to get used to it. After this, I'm done." 

Police and defense lawyers will like this book; Mickey and Harry are good at what they do. You want them on your side. But the role change in this case was hard for Harry. "A week ago he was a retired LAPD detective. He now seemed to have a whole new identity," Connelly writes. At least for this one case, Mickey succeeds in recruiting Harry. "You're a homicide investigator," Mickey tells him. "The Los Angeles Police Department decided it didn't need you anymore. There are places—people—that still do." 

Harry goes along with Mickey. "I thought, if there is a possibility that this man didn't do it, then somebody is still out there who did. And that bothers me—that somebody like this could still be out there in the world with you and everybody else," Harry tells his skeptical daughter Maddie. But nonetheless, Harry struggles playing this new role. "He expected news of what he was doing to bring a large backlash from those he knew in law enforcement," Connelly writes. "I work a case for you, not just you, any defense lawyer and it'll undo everything I did with the badge," Harry tells Mickey. "You know what they call a guy who switches sides in homicide? They call him a Jane Fonda . . . get it? It's crossing the dark side." 

Connelly tells a good story, as he always does;he's savvy about police and trial work, and neatly placed in the L.A. world. His characters, as Angelinos would say, "would take the one-ten to the one-oh-one and then exit on Santa Monica." Or, the "La Cienega south from Sunset toward I-10." On a visit to the well-known L.A. cemetery of the stars, Bosch sees the grave of the celebrated voice-over cartoon actor Mel Blanc, whose headstone is marked, "That's all, Folks!" Nice touches that make Connelly's story distinctively L.A. 

Connelly also knows his crime information. He writes that Bosch "always broke his thoughts into these distinct channels of logic: The things he knew, the things he could assume, and the things he wanted to know. That last channel was always the widest." 

This story turns on a missing watch and condom trace evidence. Lawyers will appreciate Connelly's clever use of the nature of pretrial proceedings, and the hard, smart part of police investigative work—classic Connelly. A victim, the wife of an L.A. cop, was sexually assaulted and brutally murdered, the imprisoned accused claimed he was set up, and the evidence seemed to say he was guilty—a classic thriller. 

The Crossing doesn't have much of the personal storylines that Connelly's other books have, such as Haller's eccentric, colorful law practice or Bosch's romantic side life. Perhaps it introduces a new merger of his two chief characters. Connelly fans, stay tuned. The combo works.

Ronald Goldfarb is a Washington, D.C., (and Miami-based) attorney, author, and literary agent whose reviews appear regularly in Washington Lawyer. Visit www.ronaldgoldfarb.com or e-mail rlglawlit@gmail.com