I enjoy a good legal thriller and it's always fun to discover a new character. Bear is Broken is Lachlan Smith's debut novel. And who better to pen a legal thriller than a lawyer himself!
Leo Maxwell was raised by his older brother Teddy - a successful criminal defense lawyer. Successful in the eyes of his clients, but the cops and prosecutors aren't big fans. Leo himself has just passed the bar exam. The two brothers are out for lunch when an unknown assailant walks in and shoots Teddy point blank.
Teddy alive - but barely. The cops seem to be dragging their heels, so Leo decides to investigate on his own. But the deeper he digs, the less he knows. It seems everyone has something to hide - Teddy's staff, his ex-wife, his clients and the Maxwell patriarch - currently serving a life sentence for murder. And Teddy himself - is he the dirty lawyer the cops think he is?
Smith has created an interesting protagonist. At first, I thought Leo was the young, innocent new lawyer who would strive to uphold the law and not sully his newly minted bar card. He is - to a point. He makes mistakes and some bad judgement calls, but there's more than a little Teddy in Leo - he's not quite the innocent I thought he was. My opinion on Leo changed more than once throughout the book. As his investigation progresses, he is forced to face certain truths. Many of the supporting characters are unlikeable, giving the book bit of a noir-ish detective feel.
Smith's plotting is more involved that I initially thought it would be - there are lots of red herrings and false trails that kept me choosing between two suspects right up until the last chapters. I did think the plot was drawn out a few chapters too many.
I chose to listen to Bear is Broken. The reader was R.C. Bray - a narrator I was unfamiliar with. And that was perfect for establishing a new character. He has a interesting voice - a bit of a hard edge and gravelly undertones mixed with naiveté. Bray was an easy voice to listen to and his enunciation was clear.
All in all, a solid debut from a new author. Leo Maxwell's tale is far from over. This is the first in a planned series. Leo as a character has been established and perhaps we'll see more courtroom action next time 'round. The ending is satisfying, but left with enough threads to pick up on for the second entry. I'll be listening.
Listen to an excerpt of Bear is Broken. Read an excerpt of Bear is Broken.