Author: Michael Connelly
ISBN: 0-316-73493-4, Little, Brown and Company, 2005
Genre: Legal Thriller
First Line: The morning air off the Mojave in late winter is as clean and crisp as you'll ever breathe in Los Angeles County.
I overdosed on legal thrillers years ago, when John Grisham and Scott Turow were at the very top of their game. Although the plots were still complex and dazzling, I'd begun to feel claustrophobic for some reason, and I stopped reading them. I needed to get out of the courtroom.
If there's one author whom I can't ignore, it's Michael Connelly. When The Lincoln Lawyer came out, I couldn't believe it. One of my favorite authors had written a legal thriller! I studiously ignored the book until The Brass Verdict appeared. Once I realized that Mickey Haller, the Lincoln lawyer himself, was going to be appearing with my beloved Harry Bosch, I knew I'd have to bite the bullet and read up on what makes Mickey Haller tick.
I should've bitten that bullet a long time ago.
Defense attorney Mickey Haller does a lot of his business from the back of his Lincoln. In fact, he has a whole fleet of the automobiles. By the time I met Mickey, he had all the appearance of a completely jaded legal hack:
I didn't deal in guilt and innocence, because everybody was guilty. Of something. But it didn't matter, because 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.
For all his world-weary talk of everyone being guilty of something, Haller is also pointing the finger at himself. He feels that he didn't do everything possible when he defended Jesus Menendez, who's now looking life without parole straight in the eyes from the "comfort" of San Quentin. Regardless of how he may be perceived outwardly, Haller is a good guy who remains on very good terms with both ex-wives, and who secretly longs to be presented with a truly innocent man to defend. (He worries that, after all this time, he won't be able to recognize innocence when he sees it.)
Then Louis Roulet is charged with assault and attempted murder. This is what Haller calls a "franchise case" because Roulet's mother will pay any amount of money to see her son declared innocent. But the more Haller and his investigator Raul Levin work on this case, the more things don't add up. Haller finds himself caught in a deadly web, and it's going to take every speck of his smarts to work his way out of it intact.
Connelly worked his magic on me once again. Within a few pages, I was fascinated with the character of Mickey Haller. For all his quiet, matter-of-fact posturing and pronouncements, he still retains a remarkable degree of gullibility. The pacing is perfect throughout the book, gathering speed with each successive chapter. When Haller realizes the trap he's fallen into, the plan he puts together to extricate himself is brilliant and almost guaranteed to keep readers glued to the page.
Since I had such a great reading experience with Lawyer Haller, am I going to add legal thrillers to my reading diet once more? No, but I certainly am ready for The Brass Verdict!
[Source: Purchased through the Mystery Guild.]