Bear is Broken

( 91 )

Overview


A Kirkus Reviews and Deadly Pleasures Best Book of the Year

Leo Maxwell grew up in the shadow of his older brother Teddy, a successful yet reviled criminal defense attorney. As children, their father was jailed for their mother's murder, and Teddy was left to care for Leo, who eventually followed him into the legal profession.

The two are at lunch one day when Teddy is shot in the head—in public, in cold blood. As Teddy lies in a coma, Leo ...

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Overview


A Kirkus Reviews and Deadly Pleasures Best Book of the Year

Leo Maxwell grew up in the shadow of his older brother Teddy, a successful yet reviled criminal defense attorney. As children, their father was jailed for their mother's murder, and Teddy was left to care for Leo, who eventually followed him into the legal profession.

The two are at lunch one day when Teddy is shot in the head—in public, in cold blood. As Teddy lies in a coma, Leo realizes that the search for his brother’s shooter falls upon him and him alone, as his brother had enemies not only on the street but in the police department as well. As he begins to examine the life of a brother he barely knew, Leo quickly finds that the list of possible suspects is much larger than he could have imagined.

The deeper Leo digs into Teddy’s life, the more questions arise: about Teddy and his ex-wife and about the murder that tore their family apart all those years ago. And somewhere, the person who shot his brother is still on the loose, and there are many who would happily kill Leo to keep it that way.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.)
From the Publisher

"Smith doesn’t write like a novice."—New York Times Book Review

“An absorbing debut novel...Bear is Broken is an exciting read.”—New York Journal of Books

“This superior whodunit takes off at breakneck speed and leads readers on a wild ride through Frisco’s seamy criminal underbelly. It also examines the troubled relationship between brothers who, despite a history of shared tragedy, have never been able to become a family.”—Shore News Today

“Smith . . . deftly combines the thriller with the whodunit in this dark and disturbing debut. With a richly drawn protagonist in Leo and the potential for a sequel, Bear is Broken marks what promises to be the start of a riveting series.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch

"The ending is as chilling as any I’ve read in a while. As with the beginning of this fine novel, it does exactly what it is supposed to do: leave the reader stunned and wanting more."—Bookreporter

“The final showdown is hair-raising. . . . Sensitive, ingenious and suspenseful. A series is promised and very welcome indeed.”—Kirkus Reviews

"Enough plot twists to please any mystery fan. A good read-alike recommendation for readers who enjoy David Hosp and S.J. Bolton."—Library Journal

"To call this book a crime novel or a thriller is to sell it short. It is far more provocative than that."—The Mystery Reader

“It is always a pleasure always a pleasure to happen upon a debut novel that reads as if the writer has toiled at his craft for ages, and that is definitely the case with Lachlan Smith’s San Francisco thriller, Bear is Broken.”—Bookpage

“Smith’s first novel offers a superior blend of amateur-detective mystery and belated-coming-of-age novel cunningly masked as a legal thriller . . . Smith combines a smart but clueless protagonist forced to drop his naïveté; a gathering of well-drawn, equally motivated suspects; and, yes, some plot-furthering sex and violence. San Francisco’s gritty streets and neighboring redwood forests add to the appeal, and the addictive characters and the quirky, sideways look at the system close the deal on a terrific debut. A perfect match with David Carnoy’s novels and Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller series.”—Booklist (starred review)

“Smith’s powerful legal thriller debut, the first in a series, grabs the reader by the throat and doesn’t let go. . . . Assured prose and taut plotting add up to a winner.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Lachlan Smith has done the impossible—written a riveting debut novel that stands with the best legal thrillers on my bookshelf. In Bear is Broken, Smith establishes a commanding presence, a gift for complex plotting, and an ability to create richly drawn characters who draw the reader into the action from the opening scene.”—Linda Fairstein, bestselling author of Night Watch

“Lachlan Smith brings the culture of the courthouse and the complicated relationship between two brothers to life in this excellent debut.” —Alafair Burke, bestselling author of Never Tell

Bear is Broken is a bold, imaginative reinvention of the rich vein of San Francisco crime writing. As in the best of Dashiell Hammett, Smith traces his finger along the spider silk that binds the city bottom to top. Heroin addicts are a step removed from Pac Heights aristocrats; Sixth Street is a neighbor of Stanford University. His richly emotional and tautly told story is invigorated by the timeless American tension between our desire for order and our love of freedom. In other words, the prosecution versus the defense. With rapt attention, readers will have to wait until the final pages to discover the villain, but on page one we meet our hero—Leo Maxwell, our trustworthy, hard-working, greenhorn lawyer who just wants to do right by the only family he’s ever known.”—Scott Hutchins, author of A Working Theory of Love

Bear is Broken is a spectacular novel, managing to be both literary and suspenseful. Particularly admirable is Lachlan Smith’s exploration of the relationship between Leo Maxwell and his tragically sidelined brother; never for a second does the twisting plot slacken. One of the best debuts I’ve read in years.”—William Bernhardt, author of the bestselling Ben Kincaid series

“Reminiscent in tone of early works by John Grisham and late ones concocted by Michael Connelly, Bear is Broken reeks with the cynical authenticity of the games cops and lawyers play. . . . A compassionate tale.”—January Magazine

“Very accomplished.”—Alabama Public Radio

"Deftly plotted. . . . A fast and engrossing read."—Midwest Book Review

Library Journal
Leo Maxwell just received his bar licence and has been shadowing his older brother Teddy, a well known San Francisco criminal lawyer. The novel opens with Teddy being shot point blank in the head as the two brothers eat lunch in Teddy's usual restaurant. In the aftermath of the shooting, Leo faces a new reality and tries to sort the truth from the lies regarding Teddy's business practices, ethics, and private life; in addition, Leo realizes that if his brother survives, Teddy will never be the same man he once was. Because of Teddy's success as a criminal defense lawyer, the police don't seem interested in investigating his shooting, and Leo is determined to find the shooter himself. VERDICT This engaging debut by a practicing Alabama attorney features well-drawn if somewhat unlikable characters and enough plot twists to please any mystery fan. A good read-alike recommendation for readers who enjoy David Hosp and S.J. Bolton. [See Prepub Alert, 8/20/12.]—Lisa Hanson O'Hara, Univ. of Manitoba Libs.
Kirkus Reviews
A newly minted attorney investigating his brother's shooting ends up learning more about the victim than he'd ever wanted to know. Hours after being sworn as a member of the California bar, Leo Maxwell is having lunch with his lawyer-brother Teddy when a stranger walks into the restaurant, fires a bullet into Teddy's face and leaves. As Teddy hovers in a coma, Detective Anderson, who has no love for the man he tells Leo was as dirty as a lawyer can be in San Francisco, plans to arrest Ricky Santorez, Teddy's most famous client, for the crime. Ricky has a grade-A alibi, since he's spent the past several years in San Quentin after killing two cops who burst into his place by mistake and caught him with a highly illegal weapon, but Anderson says that a snitch fingered him for hiring the job. Since the snitch is Lawrence Maxwell, Teddy and Leo's father, who's been locked up for a dozen years for killing his wife, Caroline, Leo takes an even more personal interest in the case. His search for other suspects leads him to the family of Keith Locke, a client Teddy was defending against the charge of murdering thrill-seeking sociologist professor Sam Marovich, whose corpse he was found trying to push through a window of the sex club where Keith worked. The suspects are familiar types--Keith's imperious father, Gerald, his fiercely protective mother, Greta, his sexually alluring sister Christine--but newcomer Smith juggles them with supernal dexterity, and the final showdown is hair-raising. Sensitive, ingenious and suspenseful. A series is promised and very welcome indeed.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802120793
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/5/2013
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 672,384
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


Lachlan Smith was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford, and received an MFA from Cornell. His fiction has appeared in the Best New American Voices series. In addition to writing novels, he is an attorney practicing in the area of civil rights and employment law. He lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 91 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(15)

4 Star

(22)

3 Star

(33)

2 Star

(11)

1 Star

(10)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 91 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2013

    This was a great read with lots of action, lots of interesting p

    This was a great read with lots of action, lots of interesting plot, and an intelligent look at the world.  I am waiting for the next book and another romp through the streets of the Bay Area.

    22 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 31, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Terrific plot! A real who "dunnit!" Great for those of

    Terrific plot! A real who "dunnit!" Great for those of us who love a good mystery. 
    AND FOR THOSE WHO INSIST ON WRITING A COMPLETE SYNOPSIS, PLEASE STOP!
    WRITE YOUR OWN BOOK!
    A CUSTOMER REVIEW IS JUST THAT, A REVIEW, NOT THE ENTIRE PLOT!!!!

    13 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 31, 2014

    This is just a suggestion to "anonymous" posted today:

    This is just a suggestion to "anonymous" posted today: nobody makes you read the entire review. If it's more than 5 sentences, the writer is probably just showing off. Quit reading!

    12 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2014

    Plot spoilers

    I wish these rude plot spoilers would stop giving away every detail of the book. Some of us would like to read it for ourselves.

    11 out of 49 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 27, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Leo Maxwell has just formally become a member of California Stat

    Leo Maxwell has just formally become a member of California State Bar. He is a man who does not think “ethical criminal defense attorney” is an oxymoron, perhaps putting him in the minority, certainly among the San Francisco police and the District Attorney’s office. His older brother, Teddy, is a member of that fraternity, a brilliant lawyer and one of the most sought-after criminal defense attorneys in northern California. As the two men share a lunch while on a break from the trial just nearing its conclusion, with Teddy’s closing argument due that afternoon, a man enters the restaurant and shoots Teddy in the head at point-blank range, then quickly exits before anyone can make a move.

    So begins this first novel from Lachlan Smith, apparently the first in a series, and an impressive debut it is. Teddy lies in the hospital in a coma, and Leo and Teddy’s ex-wife and former law partner, Jeanie, now working at the Contra Costa County Public Defender’s Office, are left to grapple with the prognosis and the knowledge that they may at some point in the not-too-distant future have to decide whether to remove him from life-support systems. But the most urgent task for Leo is to find the gunman. His first move is to examine all his brother’s case files, to see if a disgruntled client, or a victim or witness in one of his headline-making cases has sought revenge. There are several viable suspects as his investigation continues.

    Leo has been haunted most of his life by the death of their mother 16 years before (“the abscess at the center of his life”), apparently at the hands of her husband, the boys’ father. It was Leo who at age ten had returned from school to find her badly beaten body, the weapon Leo’s baseball bat. Despite having protested his innocence, the father was convicted and is serving a life term at San Quentin.

    Leo must prove himself, to others and to himself, having been raised by and stayed in the shadow of his well-known, and in many circles reviled, brother. In his insecurity, as a youngster he had a Batman symbol tattooed on his upper left arm.

    I loved the author’s description of a nurse in the hospital as having “the self-sufficient look of someone who spent most of her time with people who didn’t talk back.” Deftly plotted, the only flaw this reader found was perhaps too many possible culprits, in what turns out to be three killings, by the end getting a slight case of whiplash as the novel names one, and then another and then another, and the possibility that one, or perhaps more than one, is guilty. That said, the novel is a fast and engrossing read, and is recommended.

    11 out of 45 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2014

    A good read

    Decent plot and character development i certainly was interested in the characters and whodunit

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2014

    New years

    HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR!!!!!

    4 out of 46 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2014

    Thought I was missing part of the book

    Extremely disappointed in this book. It started or semi okay but the end was ridiculous. It just stopped like the author decided not too write anymore. What a waste of time.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2014

    This book was boring. The book is 242 pages, but should have end

    This book was boring. The book is 242 pages, but should have ended sooner. The books main character as another commenter mentioned was inept as a lawyer and a wimp. Will not be reading anymore of this authors books.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2014

    Confusing

    Had to read it to see what would untwist. Ok, but not a favorite.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2014

    Good grief

    Boring and poorly written. "She had smooth skin the color of scalded butter." Huh? Archived. End of story.

    3 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2014

    Poorly written.

    I thought the story was slow to develop and the characters hard to follow. Would not recommend this book to anyone.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2014

    Glad it was free.

    Did not like the writing style. Could not get into it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2014

    Refreshingly Talented!

    Story line though complicated, was well deveolped. This writer can only get better.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2014

    Better than I expected the title misleading

    I think this author has great potential

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 1, 2014

    I gave this five stars even though I haven't read it to make up

    I gave this five stars even though I haven't read it to make up for the one star rating from the anonymous reader who was complaining about plot spoilers! I totally agree with you...I can't stand those long winded reviews that give away the entire plot! That being said it is also not fair for a person to give one star because they don't like a reviewers view. It's not fair to the author!
    I did however get this book on a Free Friday deal and am looking forward to reading it as soon as I climb off my soapbox!
    Thank you for listening...

    2 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2014

    Not too bad

    Action packed who done it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2014

    Good read....

    although I knew who did it from the first mention. Glad I didn't have to read more than 241 pages to know for sure.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2014

    not bad

    a lot fo twists & turns but not a bad read

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2014

    Good reading

    When you come behind someone's shadow how do you prove yourself? His mother was murdered, his father accused of her murder and is in prison, and now his brother the famous defense attorney has been shot and lies in the hospital fighting for his life! Leo now has to take on his brother's clients and find out who shot his brother! Leo has a lot to learn in a short period of time and found nothing comes easy. He makes mistakes along the way but this helps him to become his own man! You can't help but feel sorry for Leo and push him on to succeed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 91 Customer Reviews

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