RARA-AVIS: The Lincoln Lawyer

From: logan keith (keith) ( keith@globetrotter.net)
Date: 30 Mar 2008

Yes, this book does fly! For a 500-pager it goes quickly.

While I have long been an ardent fan of Connelly's Harry Bosch series, I have also felt that his non-series books have left a lot to be desired (with the exception of The Poet). So when I sat down with The Lincoln Lawyer, my expectations were not high; a legal thriller, to boot! Imagine my surprise when I discovered this to be one of Connelly's best-written books.

From paragraph one the author slides details in with wit and grace: Mickey Haller likes to keep the window in his office open, yet by page 3 we realize that he is in a car. Hence the office is his car, a unique situation to be sure, but Connelly lets this curious information out quite subtly instead of making a big production about it. The first sign that this is a winner.

On page 5 Haller thinks about Jesus Menendez, a pivotal character who we only actually meet around page 200. But he is mentioned a few times, to set the stage, again nothing dramatic, very subtle. It is the first indication that this novel will be become a search for doing the right thing, to set things straight; Haller spends a significant amount of time justifying his actions as a defence attorney, that someone has to do the job and that he does it as well as anyone and feels no guilt about it.

This is an extremely well-structured novel, with many twists. Until page 200 it is a straight legal thriller, with Haller building a case to save his client, Louis Roulet. Then he discovers something that leads him to believe that Roulet is guilty, and we are finally introduced to Menendez. So the novel shifts, and becomes about Haller somehow trying to implicate his own client, and free a former client, all without endangering his status as a lawyer.

Along the way we have met other important characters like Raul Levin, an investigator/friend of Haller's. Another small yet cool detail has Levin bringing some uneaten steaks home to his dog, a dog whose barking on a phone message later helps pinpoint a time of death. Small things like this just show how well-structured this book is. Haller's relationship with his first ex-wife is key, as she slips some essential evidence out during a weak moment. Maggie is a prosecuting attorney, and the oppositional nature of their jobs is fodder for some reflections on Haller's part, again justifying his role in trying hard to get obviously guilty people as light a sentence as possible. Also Haller's relationship with his daughter, all off-stage, is a driving force for his wanting to do the right thing. Which of course is what transforms Haller after discovering Menendez's innocence.

So the book goes from a straight legal thriller to a quest for vindication to a revenge story, with many twists. With many more twists! Heck, 20 pages from the end we still have not received an explanation for how Roulet committed a key murder, and therein lies a final, bitter twist that I, for one, did not see coming at all. Great writing. highly engaging and engrossing, one of those "could not put it down, read it in one sitting" type books. A rare bird.

With The Lincoln Lawyer Michael Connelly proved to me that he can write. Period. Not just Harry Bosch. I am consequently a bigger fan than ever, and that's saying a lot since I've been around since The Black Ice (got a signed arc on my shelf) and I consider the one-two combo of The Conrete Blonde and The Last Coyote to be modern classics in the crime fiction genre. Imagine how thrilled I am that in Connelly's next novel Bosch and Haller meet! Connelly remains one of my few must have hardcover purchases, except now that includes his non-Bosch books.

Thanks, Michael, for so many hours of great entertainment.

Keith Logan

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