Thursday, July 06, 2006

Michael Connelly has the guts of a burglar, a genuine love for justice, and a wry sense of humor rarely present in his books about LAPD detective Harry Bosch. But his newest – a legal thriller introducing a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer of the type we all love to hate – is not only brave and intensely gripping but also often very funny.
Even the title is a good laugh. Mickey Haller is the kind of lawyer who takes out ads in the yellow pages, carefully skirting Bar Association rules about promising clients too much. He runs his business mostly by cell phone from the back seat of a Lincoln Town Car, chauffered by a former client working off his debt to Haller at ten bucks an hour (the other ten comes out of Haller’s pocket and/or expense account.)
“There was nothing about the law that I cherished anymore… Every case I took on was a house built on a foundation poured by overworked and underpaid laborers. They cut corners. They made mistakes. And then they painted over the mistakes with lies. My job was to peel away the paint and find the cracks. To work my fingers and tools into those cracks and widen them. To make them so big that either the house fell down or, failing that, my client slipped through.”
Connelly is so good that we believe Mickey when he says that. We also understand his financial problems well enough to sympathize with his desire for just one “franchise” case – a long-running affair for which he can bill a rich client $300 an hour and set himself up for life. So when a bail bondsman tells him about Louis Roulet, a wealthy Beverly Hills real estate agent accused of the rape and beating of a prostitute, Haller thinks he’s found his franchise.
But as his ex-cop investigator Raul Levin starts to dig into Roulet’s past, The Lincoln Lawyer opens up into a whole other kind of quest. It gets into a case of a client who Mickey now is sure was innocent but who was convicted and sent to San Quentin for life. “I was always worried that I might not recognize innocence,” Haller says. “The possibility of it in my job was so rare that I operated with the fear that I wouldn’t be ready for it when it came. That I would miss it.”
A smashing conclusion, with echoes of Presumed Innocent and Witness For the Prosecution, gives The Lincoln Lawyer stature and suspense. Connelly has stepped up to the plate in the overflowing ballpark of legal thrillers and blasted a grand slam his first time at bat.