Desert Isle Keeper Review

The Lincoln Lawyer

Michael Connolly
2005, Mystery
Little, Brown, $26.95, 416 pages, Amazon ASIN 0316734934

Grade: A
Sensuality: N/A

Mystery writer Michael Connolly is best known for his series featuring Los Angeles police detective Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch. A couple of years ago I read one of his books, loved it, and finally glommed his backlist. Connolly's books have everything I want in a good mystery - a tight plot with surprising twists and turns, atmosphere so well realized that I can choke on the smog, and characters who are as real as flesh and blood.

Mickey Haller is a walking talking example of a sleazy lawyer joke. He's a defense attorney in Los Angeles and the book's title refers to Mickey's office in the back seat of his Lincoln town car. Mickey works the phone as his driver, a former client working off his bill, takes him from court house to court house in Los Angeles County where he meet his clients - bikers, gangbangers, prostitutes and con-men. Mickey has long lost any idealism he might have had about Justice. For a very long time, Mickey hasn't thought of guilt or innocence. He has only concerned himself with how he can spin evidence. As Mickey puts it: "It didn't matter...whether the defendant 'did it' or not. What mattered was the evidence against him--the proof--and if and how it could be neutralized. My job was to bury the proof, to color the proof a shade of gray. Gray was the color of reasonable doubt."

As the book opens, Mickey gets every lawyer's dream, a franchise client (one who will pay whatever it takes). Louis Roulet is a rich man from a well known family who's been charged with beating and attempting to rape the prostitute he picked up in a bar. Roulet passionately protests his innocence and at first his story seems to check out. But very soon pin-prick, then gaping holes appear in Roulet's story. As Mickey investigates, his thoughts go back to Jesus Menendez, a former client of his who was charged with a similar crime. It doesn't take long for Mickey to realize he's in the presence of pure evil and in danger himself.

The book is told in the first person and we get to known Mickey quite well. At first glance most readers (including me) would dismiss Mickey as scum defending scum, but it didn't take long for me to warm to him. Mickey may have a cynical shell, but he's not totally hardened. He's been able to preserve good relationships with both his former wives (there is a hint he may get back with his first), does his level best to be with his daughter (and feels guilty when he doesn't), and has a very soft spot for women who are in trouble with the law. He often defends them pro-bono - to his secretary's disgust.

Mickey works hard for his disreputable clients, and as we soon see, he knows the difference between someone who is guilty and someone who is evil. I read The Lincoln Lawyer at two very long sittings and would have done it in one had not work intervened. The plot is fast moving and unpredictable and I thought I had it all figured out until the end which left me gasping in amazement. What a surprise, but it made perfect sense.

I've read mysteries that had great plots but cardboard characters, and some that spent so much time developing an exquisite character that the plot got lost. Michael Connolly does justice to the plot and the characters in his books. I give The Lincoln Lawyer my highest recommendation and it's the best non-romance novel I have read in 2005.

-- Ellen Micheletti

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