Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly: A review

The Lincoln Lawyer (Mickey Haller, #1)The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What can a defense lawyer do when he realizes that he has failed to recognize innocence in one of his clients? How can he sleep at night knowing that he failed that client and that he is now spending all his days and nights in San Quentin? Furthermore, what can he do when he realizes that the person really responsible for the crime for which that man was sent to prison is the person that he is currently defending on a charge of assault and battery and attempted rape? How can he begin to balance the scales of Justice?

Well, Perry Mason would have found a way. Those Erle Stanley Gardner books and the later television series were my introduction to the world of thrillers featuring legal eagles and I loved them. I devoured the Gardner books and never missed an episode of the series. There's been a bit of a void in my life since then. No one could quite fill Perry's shoes. After reading The Lincoln Lawyer, I think Mickey Haller just might.

Perhaps it helps that in the movie made from the book, Matthew McConaughey played Haller, and, though I haven't seen the movie, throughout the book I was picturing McConaughey as Haller. The suit seemed to fit perfectly.

Haller is definitely cut from the Perry Mason mold - an aggressive criminal defense attorney who pursues every legal - or near legal - angle available to him in the defense of his clients, regardless of who they are. Con artists, drug dealers, prostitutes, even rapists and murderers are all on Mickey's client list. He lives by the code that everyone is entitled to a defense and everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Mickey's "office" is the backseat of a Lincoln Town Car. He conducts business while his driver, a client working off his debt, drives him to the far-flung courthouses of Los Angeles. One of his two ex-wives is his case manager. She keeps track of everything from her home and keeps Mickey on schedule. His other - first - ex-wife, the mother of his eight year old daughter, works as a prosecutor for Los Angeles.

The case which is at the center of this story involves a Beverly Hills realtor who is arrested for attacking a woman whom he had met in a bar. The realtor is very rich and when he is approached about defending him, Mickey sees dollar signs dancing in front of his eyes. This is the "franchise case" that defense lawyers dream of, the one that will set them up and solve their money problems, of which Mickey Haller has several.

As he initially investigates the case, Mickey sees it as an easy cake walk. But then things start to get complicated.

Mickey notices similarities between his current case and one he defended two years before and he comes to believe that the reason there are similarities is that the perpetrator in both cases was the same - the man he is currently defending, his "franchise case."

Things get even more serious when one of Haller's friends and associates is murdered, seemingly because he was helping on the case. Had he gotten too close to the truth about the evil personified by this client?

Michael Connelly is a very good writer and I have previously enjoyed the several books of his that I have read in the Harry Bosch series. This book was even better, I thought. It's easy to understand why it won several awards. It was expertly plotted and paced, designed to keep the reader turning those pages. The action never lagged, but my favorite parts were the courtroom scenes where we got to see Mickey play his role to secure the outcome that he needed in order to serve the course of justice. Perry Mason couldn't have played it any better.


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