May 2022 reads

We’re in the thick of fall and the mercury is dropping. The end of April saw me battling with a thick Connelly read. The trailer of Lincoln Lawyer had been unleashed and the show premiered yesterday (13 May) on Netflix. I thought it was a good time to read the original. The Brass Verdict had been on my shelf for years and I prefer to peruse the book before watching the adaptation. At 567 pages, it was significant but thrilling. I followed this up with Steven Adam’s memoir, My Life, My fight. The tough NBAer shares his unique story, growing up the youngest  in a brood of fourteen. He only discovered basketball at age ten but has carried the torch for Kiwis in the league. Finally, I knocked back my first Scottoline, another standalone thriller from the prolific author. 

The Brass Verdict (Connelly). This represents the second instalment in Connelly’s Mickey Haller series. The book opens with a hard fought tussle between Haller and Jay Vincent, the prosecutor. Haller wins, and Vincent goes over to his side. Many years later, Vincent is murdered but all his cases are handed down to Haller. This includes the franchise case involving a Hollywood heavyweight. The latter is accused of murdering his wife and her lover. He quickly allots most of his resources to the case, given the hefty advance provided. However, Elliott seems unconcerned. He also wants nothing to delay the trial. Mickey hires Patrick, a new driver. He’s a former surfer who’s seen better days. 

Among the investigators is detective Harry Bosch. Haller grasps that he cannot win the case as a lone wolf. He agrees to trade information with Bosch. He does the same with Times reporter Jack McEvoy, who has a small part. Verdict showcases Haller at his best. He juggles his time as a father with lawyering in his Lincoln sedans. He has the help of his secretary and his investigator. After handing him the cases, he was to report his progress to Judge Holder. He also utilises expensive outside help in trying to measure the jury. He dines in eateries and bars.  

The trial finally arrives. Witnesses are called and both sides argue their case. From the start, Haller makes it clear that he is not concerned about his clients’ guilt. Still, he’s intrigued and wants no secrets. Elliott wines and dines him in the fanciest resto’s. The deceased lover’s angry family turns up for the trial, adding another angle to a full-on plot. When the matador is unmasked, you’d find it a curveball. You’d never expect the identity of the villain. In some ways, it’s a poor man’s The Poet. Most importantly, Connelly ends his narrative with conviction. There’s no doubting or grey area; characters are killed off like the whole cast of The Departed

Connelly keeps the reader guessing. For much of the book, we are left wondering who committed the atrocities. There are enough twists and subplots for an epic. The short chapters also help. There are fifty-five of them which equates to about ten pages a pop. The writing is easy as. It’s classic Connelly even as he takes to court. The title alludes to a verdict delivered via a bullet. As they say, ‘Live by the sword, die by the sword.’ Maybe it was the bigger font size but I liked this better than The Lincoln Lawyer

Rating: 4.4/5

Steven Adams: My Fight, My Life. I chanced upon this autobiography while reading his Wikipedia page. Published in 2018, the book details his journey. As mentioned he comes from a large family. He grew up destitute in Rotorua, New Zealand. When his father died, he was twelve. He stopped going to school until Kenny, an American coach, took him under his wing. He attended an all-boys private school, Scots College, where he struggled to read. On the flip-side, the school did not offer much competition to him on the court. He trained for many hours every day. He was lucky to get the help he needed. There were always magnanimous lifesavers who welcomed him into their homes. He counts his older brother, Mohi, as his saviour. His time at the farm was bliss. 

At first, he was all height and no skills. He was a 6-9 teenager who couldn’t shoot. Still, he won the MVP award each year in the NZ nationals. Adams valued and looked out for his teammates. He was forced to study in order to gain a scholarship in the US. Steven did a year in Pittsburg before declaring for the 2013 NBA draft. The latter is considered among the weakest in league history, with only two draftees becoming all-stars. He worked out for eleven teams, loving the travel and hotels. Adams arrived in the same class as Giannis, Rudy Gobert, and Victor Oladipo. The Thunder selected him with the fourteenth pick. 

He was thrust into a playoff team with a win-now mentality. In his rookie year, he wasn’t a regular starter but wasn’t relegated to the D-league either. Steven remarked that Oklahoma took care of their players, like a family. For him, ending up in OKC was the best scenario. The following season, he became the team’s starting centre. He wasn’t even the fourth option on offence on a team that had Kevin ‘KD’ Durant and Russ Westbrook. Injuries marred his sophomore season and the Thunder missed the playoffs. He learned about his coach’s firing through Twitter. The following year, the squad finished third in the conference, ultimately eliminating the Spurs. They led the Warriors, 3 games to one, before losing the final trio of games. KD left that offseason. 

With the Thunder, he was never able to get out of the first round again. In the final chapter, he singles out that being better everyday is his fight. He wants his voice to be heard and wishes to help less fortunate people. He wants to give back and help deserving people realise their dream. With the help of his co-author, the title was a breeze to read. Though it was three hundred pages long, it never felt like a laborious exercise. I managed to crest it in four days. Adams’s story is mighty interesting. He’s not the highest-paid Kiwi sportsman for a reason.  

Rating: 4.89/5

What happened to the Bennetts (Lisa Scottoline). The plot of this crime thriller intrigued me. It involved an American family going into the witness protection program after scumbags destroyed their lives. The novel opens with the Bennetts, your average East Coast family. They have a house, a car, a backyard, and a dog. Their daughter, Allison, plays lacrosse and soccer. The father, Jason, owns a court reporting business. The wife, Lucinda, is a professional shutterbug. Their subsistence changes with an apparent carjacking. Allison is fatally wounded by an errant shot. One of the thugs, Milo,  turns on his fellow, before scampering away. 

When they get home, the FBI contacts them and whisks them away. They are then sequestered into WITSEC. Delaware becomes the new home and they have to start over again. No contact with their friends and family. No logging in on accounts. Their businesses and lives are put on hold. Hell, they couldn’t even attend Allison’s funeral. Jason tries to piece the killers together. They learn that Milo is part of an organised crime ring, called the George Veria Organisation (GVO). The casualty was George’s son. Paul Hart was their lawyer. He was having an affair with Lucinda. While in the marshes, the Bennetts have to pick up the pieces of their lives. The onslaught against them never lets, even when they’re gone. The WITSEC section is a hard slog as there isn’t much happening.  

After this, Jason takes matters into his own hands. He sets out to make contact with George and to find the truth. The main players fall off like dominoes. One by one, a blue BMW sedan eliminates the baddies. Both Milo and Jason go rogue and in time, the latter is wanted by the authorities. He goes on a race against time to clear his name. He’s reunited with his FBI pal in West Philly, setting the stage for an explosive finale. There is a massive conspiracy in high places that set off the storm. This involved Jason’s time as a court reporter in Guantanamo.  

I would admit that the book wasn’t the easiest read. There is a bit more description than necessary. On the plus side, the short chapters did help. The (mostly) accessible language was another pro. The setting was also well-constructed. This is especially impressive as Scottoline had to do her research on these places. I also liked how she used twists and subplots. It was as though you should ‘Trust no one.’ While Jason searches for answers, so do we. I can’t help but compare this to Ozark, which dropped its final episodes last month. Having taken in both mediums, I’m sure that Scottoline drew some inspiration from that series. 

Rating: 4.01/5

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