Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer Returns

In a difficult economy, the criminal defense business is not all that it used to be and so Mickey Haller, the Lincoln Lawyer, is reduced to defending clients who are about to lose their homes to foreclosure. One of his clients, a not very pleasant woman named Lisa Trammel is not content simply to let Mickey wage the legal battle on her behalf. She begins her own campaign on line and in the streets to defend herself and others against what she perceives to be the villainy of the greedy bankers who are attempting to kick them out of their homes.

Lisa becomes enough of a nuisance that WestLand Financial, the bank that is attempting to foreclose on her home, secures a restraining order against her. Shortly thereafter, Mitchell Bondurant, the banker who heads the mortgage department at WestLand, is savagely killed in the bank's parking garage. Critical evidence points to Lisa Trammel as the killer, but she insists that she has respected the restraining order and that she was nowhere near the bank the morning that Bondurant was murdered.

Lisa retains Mickey to defend her against the murder charge and Mickey suddenly finds himself back in court, doing what he loves. He can hardly love his client, though, who turns out to be a major pain in the neck and who complicates the defense in a variety of ways. Mickey constructs an alternate theory to explain the crime and the question is whether he can get a jury to buy his suggestion before his client torpedoes the case and Mickey along with it.

This is another cleverly constructed legal thriller from Michael Connelly with a "ripped-from-the-headlines" storyline. The courtroom scenes, in particular, are very well done and will keep you on the edge of your seat. As in all of the Haller books, there is also an ongoing subplot involving Mickey's relationship with his ex-wife and their daughter. Connelly's fans and others who enjoy legal thrillers but who have not yet made Mickey Haller's acquaintance are sure to enjoy this page-turner of a book.


As a side note, one of the things that intrigues me about this series is the fact that in these books, as in real life, virtually all of the clients that Mickey Haller sees as a defense attorney are actually guilty. This is still a fairly unusual thing to happen in a legal thriller. This genre originated, as a practical matter, with Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason series. Mason remains probably the most famous fictional criminal defense attorney of all, and yet amazingly all eighty-five of the clients he defended in this series were actually innocent!

This has continued to be the case with most other books like this. As the book progresses, our defense attorney hero must not only conduct a brilliant defense of his or her client, but he or she must also expose the Real Killer in the process.

To Connelly's credit, he doesn't do this. Still, though, he seems uncomfortable with the idea of allowing his hero, Attorney Haller, to exercise his considerable talents in the service of allowing a bad person to escape his or her just desserts. In the last Haller novel, Connelly addressed the issue by allowing Haller to switch sides and join the prosecution. In this book, as in The Lincoln Lawyer, we have another twist at the end that allows Mickey to achieve justice in spite of the brilliant defense he has mounted. To my mind, this tactic worked well the first time around, but I'm not so sure it's as plausible here. Connelly may have resolved the issue with another totally unexpected twist at the end of this book, and it will be interesting to see the direction that the author takes Haller in the future.

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