The Mysterious Press
The Mysterious Press
The Mysterious Press

Bear Is Broken

by Lachlan Smith

A twisty debut thriller in the tradition of Brad Meltzer’s The Tenth Justice, about a young San Francisco lawyer who must investigate the shooting of his older brother, a controversial defense attorney whose list of enemies is longer than the Golden Gate Bridge.

  • Imprint The Mysterious Press
  • Page Count 272
  • Publication Date January 14, 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2226-1
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $17.00
  • Imprint The Mysterious Press
  • Page Count 272
  • Publication Date February 05, 2013
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2079-3
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $24.00

About The Book

Lachlan Smith bursts onto the crime fiction scene with Bear Is Broken, a phenomenal debut novel that combines the elements of classic PI novels with the contemporary sheen of the best legal thrillers.

Leo Maxwell grew up in the shadow of his older brother Teddy, a successful yet reviled criminal defense attorney who racked up enemies as fast as he racked up acquittals. Leo has always tried to emulate Teddy, even following him into the legal profession.

One day the two are at lunch when Teddy is shot in public, the shooter escaping through a crowd. As Teddy lies in a coma, Leo realizes that the search for his brother’s shooter falls upon him, as Teddy’s enemies weren’t merely the scum on the street but embedded within the police department as well. As Leo peels back the layers of Teddy’s mysterious past, he sees that the list of possible suspects is larger than he could have imagined.

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


“Smith doesn’t write like a novice.” —The New York Times Book Review

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

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

“Very accomplished.” —Alabama Public Radio

“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

“[T]he 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)

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

“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


A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
A Deadly Pleasures Best First Novel of the Year
A finalist for the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel: Thriller, Mystery
Winner of the 2014 Shamus Award for Best First P.I. Novel


Teddy likes Coruna for precisely the reason many other lawyers avoid it: at lunchtime it’s packed with city hall types, people who come to see and be seen. There’s my brother sitting at his table as calmly and seriously as if he hasn’t any doubt of winning the case, as if he’s already won, his briefcase unopened beside him.

The waitress comes and Teddy orders what he always orders, the Caesar salad with double anchovies and a glass of Cabernet. I get the club sandwich and fries. We were up half the night practicing his closing statement, and my head feels stuffed with cotton. Teddy looks up with a smile. You wouldn’t know he only got four hours of sleep. He looks animated, fresh. He has evidently decided to be charming.

“I ought to let you close this one,” Teddy says, tilting his head and giving me a pondering look.

I know he must be kidding, but it gives me a fleeting giddiness to finally be recognized by my brother as a fellow lawyer, a member of the California bar, someone who in theory could stand up and give this afternoon’s closing argument in his place.

And now the stranger has come up behind me. Aiming over my shoulder, he shoots my brother in the head.