One day out of nowhere, Mickey Haller gets an unexpected call from the LA District Attorney's office. It regards the big news of the day, namely, the reversal of the murder conviction of Jason Jessup. 24 years before, Jessup, a truck driver, had been convicted of the murder of Melissa Landry, a 12-year-old girl. However, in 2010 DNA analysis is a thing, and analysis of a semen stain left on the girl's underwear is found to not be a match for Jason Jessup. Jessup's conviction is vacated, but when the LAPD discovers the source of the semen stain—namely, the girl's stepfather—they elect to try Jessup for murder again.
The problem for the DA's office, though, is that the politically sensitive nature of the Jessup case leads them to believe they need an independent counsel. Enter Mickey Haller, veteran defense lawyer, who accepts a temporary special prosecutor appointment to try the Jessup case. Haller, on unfamiliar ground, recruits his ex-wife Maggie McPherson to join him in the prosecution, and gets the cop he trusts the most, his brother Harry Bosch, to be his lead investigator.
Tropes present in this work:
- Cigarette of Anxiety:
- Sarah Landry has to take a smoke after Bosch and Maggie explain why they're there. She explains that it's her only addiction left.
- She smokes another in a courthouse bathroom during a break in her testimony.
- Continuity Nod:
- The book opens with Mickey at the Water Grill restaurant, reflecting that the last time he was there, it was with a client who turned out to be a cold-blooded double murderer. That was a scene from The Brass Verdict.
- When remembering the day Melissa Landy was murdered in 1986, crime scene tech Izzy Gordon notes that it was her first day on the job and she was training with her supervisor, Art Donovan, now "long dead". Art Donovan was a crime scene tech who worked with Harry Bosch in several early Bosch novels, last appearing in 1995's Trunk Music.
- Double-Meaning Title: The Reversal is both Jason Jessup's murder conviction being overturned and Mickey Haller being a prosecutor instead of a defender for a change.
- Gave Up Too Soon: After the defense's last strategy fails, Jason is so certain he'll be convicted he decides to flee and ends up dying without learning that one of the jurors would vote for his acquittal, thus forcing a mistrial and, as Mickey and Margareth believe, the District Attorney would rather let him go than start a new trial.
- The Internet Is for Porn:Maggie: Jessup is right-handed according to a sample of his writing in the files, and studies have shown that with right-handers masturbation is almost always carried out by the dominant hand.
Harry: Theyve done studies on that?
Maggie: Youd be surprised. I sure was when I went online to look for this.
Harry: I knew there was something wrong with the Internet.
- Knuckle Tattoos: Jessup has knuckle tattoos that say "FUCK THIS."
- The Law Firm of Pun, Pun, and Wordplay: Harry Bosch meets with FBI Agent (and old flame) Rachel Walling at an office that the bureau had recently used in a money-laundering sting operation. The office was set up as the law firm of Franco, Becerra & Izturis. Bosch thought the name was clever.
- Multicolored Hair: Lisa Atwater, the LAPD tech who did the DNA tests in the Landy case, has a bright pink stripe in her hair. Haller is not at all pleased by this.
- Only Known by Their Nickname:
- Mickey and Sticks have known each other for so long the former no longer remembers the latter's real name.
- When Sarah checks a list of potential character witnesses who might give statements against her, she sees several names she doesn't recognize because they belong to people she only knew by their nicknames.
- Parental Incest: Sarah Landy's father was abusing her.
- Shout-Out: A bailed-out Jason Jessup goes to see Shutter Island.
- The Stool Pigeon: One of the witnesses against Jessup in his original trial was one Felix Turner, a jailhouse snitch—who turned out to be a professional snitch who used a PI on the outside to get him the info he used to fabricate testimony.
- Suicide by Cop: How the Jessup affair eventually plays out, as Jessup refuses an order to come out with his hands up and comes out shooting at the LAPD instead.
- Switching P.O.V.: Alternating chapters have Mickey Haller telling his story in first person and Harry Bosch's story in third person POV, as is the usual case with their novels.
- The Un-Reveal: Harry Bosch develops a theory that Jessup is a Serial Killer and even thinks he knows where Jessup may have buried his victims. We never find out if Harry is right.