Little, Brown, 2005, 404 pages
New York Times best-selling author Michael Connelly delivers his first legal thriller, an incendiary tale about a cynical defense attorney whose one remaining spark of integrity may cost him his life.
Mickey Haller has spent all his professional life afraid that he wouldn't recognize innocence if it stood in front of him. Haller is a Lincoln Lawyer, a criminal defense pro who operates out of the backseat of his Lincoln Town Car, to defend clients at the bottom of the legal food chain. It's no wonder that he is despised by cops, prosecutors, and even some of his own clients.
From bikers to con artists to drunk drivers and drug dealers, they're all on Mickey Haller's client list. But when a Beverly Hills rich boy is arrested for brutally beating a woman, Haller has his first high-paying client in years. It's a franchise case, and he's sure it will be a slam dunk in the courtroom. For once, he may be defending a client who is actually innocent.
But an investigator is murdered for getting too close to the truth, and Haller quickly discovers that his search for innocence has taken him face to face with a kind of evil as pure as a flame. To escape without being burned, Haller must use all of his skills to manipulate a system in which he no longer believes.
Michael Connelly, best known for the Harry Bosch series, now branches out into John Grisham territory, making a defense lawyer the protagonist.
I read the first Harry Bosch novel and wasn't impressed — it was an okay read, but it was just another hardboiled gritty LAPD detective story, with nothing that Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler hadn't done much, much better many years earlier.
While Connelly doesn't really up his writing game much in The Lincoln Lawyer, I did like it better, maybe because I just find legal thrillers more interesting than straight detective stories. The fact that Connelly is primarily a thriller writer shows in the way he puts most of the drama in the courtroom but leaves the resolutions to be handled in the street, so to speak.
Mickey Haller, the protagonist of The Lincoln Lawyer, is a defense attorney with a shabby clientele of prostitutes, bikers, and other riff raff. He gets all the predictable scum-sucking lawyer jokes, and cops hating on him for having the nerve to actually get his clients off (sometimes). He's got two ex-wives, a kid, and a home he can barely afford because it's got a nice view of L.A.
The hook comes with a rich guy accused of beating a prostitute after threatening to rape and kill her. She somehow got away from him, knocked him out, and after he's arrested, he inexplicably calls Haller to defend him, despite the fact that his family already has a high-priced, big name family attorney.
Haller should have been more suspicious about why he got chosen for this case, but his client's explanation is kind of plausible, and Haller is looking at big dollar signs for such an affluent "franchise" client. So he takes the case, and much to everyone's surprise, starts unraveling the prosecution's case against his client.
Haller is supposedly jaded and afraid of not being able to recognize when he is actually defending an innocent man. So The Lincoln Lawyer predictably puts him in a moral dilemma as he uncovers the truth, gets squeezed by unsavory clients and the DA's office, and has to negotiate an honorable resolution that is concordant with both the law and his own morals.
That resolution I thought was a bit too tidily provided with a shoot-out finale, wherein the villains dropped the careful, cunning methods they'd used throughout the book and went for stupid, violent revenge instead. Nonetheless, this was a good read in the "grimy lawyers with a heart of gold" genre.
Also by Michael Connelly: My review of The Black Echo.
My complete list of book reviews.