Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Lincoln Lawyer

The Lincoln Lawyer
© 2005 Michael Connelly
404 pages

Mickey Haller is a lawyer on the move, a criminal defender whose clients are so numerous and widespread that he conducts business from the backseat of his Lincoln Towncar.  For him, the law isn't a calling. It's a business, and the entire legal apparatus is a machine that he manipulates as best he can to the advantage of his clients. He is a charmer, a hustler -- and when a big ticket comes along, he jumps. Who wouldn't want a case to milk for a couple of years?  But Louis Roulet, a Hollywood real estate mogul who is accused of beating and attempting to rape a call girl, will be more than he bargained for.  While Haller  maintains his greatest fear is an innocent client, one who presents real consequences for failure, in Roulet he will find something worse: genuine evil.  The Lincoln Lawyer mark's Connelly's stunningly successful swift from writing cops to writing law,  introducing  a new character to his grimy Los Angeles.

I heard of this book because reviews for Grisham's Rogue Lawyer described it as a pale imitation of The Lincoln Lawyer.  Those reviews are dead-on, because while both use similar elements -- starring a cynical lawyer who works from his car, arguing with his ex-wife and being driven around by a client-turned-bodyguard -- Connelly is far superior in both plotting and story.  Haller may be cynical about the machine he operates, but he isn't a character who inspires despair.  His relationship with both of his ex-wives is cordial, even sweet;  his friends are genuine, and he, true to them. Ultimately, Haller is defiant of evil, not resigned to it.  The mechanics of the novel are far better, too. Connelly's usual pace is fast, perilous, and unpredictable, like a sprint through dark city streets, weaving through alleys and dodging blows from sinister corners. Haller soon realizes he is in over his head, as the nature of his client becomes obvious, but even while he is being dragged into unknown territory, he's crafting a possible escape that is hid from the reader. In the later courtroom scenes, when Haller steps into a testimonial minefield, it isn't know whether he saw the danger and tempted it, or planned  the provocation. The action doesn't conclude until the very last couple of pages, but Connelly's skill at keeping the reader engaged means there's no dramatic exhaustion.  I didn't expect Connelly to write law as well as he did law enforcement,, Harry Bosch has met his match. (Harry's taste in music is far superior to Halley's, though.)

The Mickey Haller series is definitely one I'll be looking to for future legal thrills.

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