Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Bear is Broken

Lachlan Smith
Bear is Broken

Grove\Mysterious Press, 2013

Two brothers are having dinner at a restaurant in San Francisco. In broad daylight an unknown shooter shoots the older brother Teddy Maxwell in the head. Sitting with his back to the attacker, Leo Maxwell does not even have a chance to look at the gunman. Teddy Maxwell was successful and cocky lawyer, popular with the social bottom types. Leo, who also just passed a bar exam, is left with his brother in coma and his clients, who now have to find new counsel. Leo does not trust the police because Teddy once sprang free the killer of two cops, and Leo is sure that detectives are even more pleased that someone has finally paid Teddy what he deserved. Inexperienced, Leo begins his own investigation, suggesting that the attack on his brother had something to do with one of his clients.

Leo is different from other dilettante seeking the murderers of their loved ones in that he behaves as a freshman, as confused and inexperienced sucker constantly making mistakes and getting tangled in his conclusions, not as hard-boiled pro who with his fists beats out the truth from the suspects.

By the presence of the court scenes and the profession of the main characters Bear is Broken can be attributed to legal thrillers. By methods of seeking the killer Bear is Broken could pass for PI novel. But Bear is Broken is neither one nor the other. And who cares about all of these subgenres?

Reading detective novels of recent years, I often catch myself thinking that modern writers have forgotten how to write a murder mystery. They can write everything, but not murder mystery. You recall with sadness novels of the past. So Bear is Broken is of exceptional quality a murder mystery. Moreover, if the author is writing tasty prose in the murder mystery and a mystery component fails, then no matter how good a stylist this writer is, the book will leave a bitter taste in the mouth. Lachlan Smith writes brilliantly, not trying to hide the holes in the plot with the elegance of writing.

Bear is Broken is one of the best debuts of recent years. We will hear from Smith again, I hope. Phenomenal talent.

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