cover image Bear Is Broken: 
A Leo Maxwell Mystery

Bear Is Broken: A Leo Maxwell Mystery

Lachlan Smith. Grove/Atlantic/Mysterious, $24 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2079-3

Set in 1999, Smith’s powerful legal thriller debut, the first in a series, grabs the reader by the throat and doesn’t let go. At a San Francisco restaurant, where Leo Maxwell, a freshly minted attorney, has met older brother Teddy, a local legend as a defense lawyer, for lunch, Leo feels flattered when Teddy tells him, “I ought to let you close this one,” a reference to the closing statement Teddy is soon to deliver in the case of Ellis Bradley, who’s accused of raping his wife. Then a stranger comes up behind Leo and shoots Teddy in the head. This violent act, which puts Teddy in a coma with little chance for recovery, places Leo in the position of trying to serve Bradley’s interests by avoiding a mistrial and carrying on in his brother’s stead—and finding out the who and why of the murder attempt. Assured prose and taut plotting add up to a winner. Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt & Hochman. (Feb.)