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Friday, March 15, 2013

Bear Is Broken (Leo Maxwell #1) (audiobook) by Lachlan Smith

Published February 5, 2013 by HighBridge Audio
Read by R.C. Bray
Duration: 8 hours, 10 minutes

Lachlan Smith's debut novel is set in 1999 San Francisco. Leo Maxwell is a newly minted lawyer (less than a week) who was been helping around his brother's law office for the last few months. Teddy  Maxwell is one of the most controversial and most successful defense attorneys in San Francisco. His specialty is not high profile clients, but hookers, drug dealers and the like. He is thoroughly hated by the police department, the prosecutor's office and any number of people who were unhappy about cases that he won.

This matters because Teddy is shot in the head in the middle of a restaurant by an unknown assailant right over Leo's shoulder and the list of possible suspects is enormous. The police think that one of Teddy's clients did it, or maybe an unhappy victim of one of his clients. Teddy's friends and clients think that the police did it.  All Leo knows is that he has to figure it out and somehow muster the courage to finish Teddy's closing argument in what may very well have been his last case.

Up to this point, Bear is Broken is an amazing first novel. It is tight, interesting, has the reader rooting for Leo to successfully finish the argument for his brother and somehow figure out who shot Teddy. The argument scene is amazing and then this tight legal thriller scatters everywhere.

Leo accuses everyone of shooting his brother. These are not just mere musings or suppositions to Teddy's former wife. No - these are confrontations, screaming matches, announcements to the world. He accuses the police, his brother's investigator, one former client, then another and then accuses them of working together and then changes his mind and then decides that he was right and starts all over again. Throw in a large subplot involving the murder of Leo and Teddy's mother years ago, their father serving time in jail for that murder and another one involving a drug dealer and a missing cash retainer (and a shady secretary) that was pre-paid to Teddy Maxwell and two more subplots involving a former client who was caught disposing of a body and that client's connection to even more stuff in Leo and Teddy's past and a look at San Francisco's prostitution scene and a rich girl that enjoys sexual games and is good with a gun and you can see that there are just way too many moving parts here. I honestly do not know how Leo solves the mystery in the end or if he actually did. All I know is that the person he finally settles on in the end is a bad person and needed to be punished for plenty of other stuff so why not for Teddy Maxwell's shooting?

The real positive to the audiobook was the reader. R.C. Bray's voice characterizations were excellent. I loved his characterization of Teddy Maxwell and the police officer in charge of the case. He covered a variety of different accents with real skill - everything from hookers to messed up druggies to elitist old rich ladies. He has a lot of talent. But, there is no way a fantastic performance by a reader could have made up for the confused jumble that is the end of this book.

My advice to Lachlan Smith would have been to have pared away at least half of these subplots and then saved them for other books.

But, what's done is done. I give this book 3 out of 5 stars. The first part was excellent - 5 stars. The last part was all over the place and left me confused (1 star) which makes a 3 star average.

Reviewed on March 15, 2013.

Note: This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review as part of Audiobook Jukebox's Solid Gold Reviewer program.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here:Bear Is Broken (Leo Maxwell)

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